I remember when tennis was an exhibition sport in '84 and they had an age group. They said you had to be 21 or under (to play) and I was 22 in '84. And I felt like I had been cheated. I was so annoyed. I remember thinking then, God, if I can still hang for '88, I'd love to play.
So, I qualified in '88 and Chris (Evert) and Martina (Navratilova) both said they didn't want to play... And then the USTA, under a lot of pressure over the fact that their two top players weren't playing, went back and asked Chrissie to play again and she changed her mind and played.
I remember thinking I can't believe they wouldn't jump at this opportunity (to play on the Olympic team). But it was the same old thing _ crowded calendar, loyalty to the tour, can't play everything _ but to me, it was like the Olympics are the Olympics.
I remember I had a terrible summer leading up to the Olympics. I had mono at Wimbledon and I played terribly and I wasn't even sure I deserved to be out there representing the U.S. So, I went into the Olympics with not a great attitude and then when I got into the Olympic Village, it was just the most incredible thing that has ever happened to me. It was bigger than life to me. The athletes running around. The opening ceremonies. The events. It was just great.
It was so different from a regular tournament. I roomed with Zina, and in our apartment, we had Brad Gilbert, Tim Mayotte, Ken Flach, Tom Gorman and Marty Riessen. There were seven of us. We had a locker and two beds. It was nothing. No mini-bars. No remote controls. No room service. But I didn't have a problem with it.
I bought a bike. They sold them right inside the village. It was 150 bucks. It was great to get around the village on. I still have it.
Anyway, this was so different from any other tournament. It was more special. Once you were at the venue with the other players, it was like a regular tournament. But once you stepped out of that, it was so different.
It was funny because if we go to a city and we had a joint event like the Olympics and we had the same field, it would be the biggest story going in that particular town. But (at the Olympics) tennis was not very big. Some of my friends who were in the more traditional Olympic sports like rowing looked at the tennis players like we were interlopers. I had one friend who asked me how the tennis players felt about barging in on amateur sports. I told him we felt pretty good about it.
I hear that the tennis players aren't going to be staying in the Olympic Village in Atlanta. That's a shame. I wish the players had an option, that they had rooms in both (a hotel near the venue and the Olympic Village). You've got to be able to go the village. That's where the spirit is. Chrissie was the only member of our team in '88 who did not win a medal and she and Robert Seguso didn't stay in the village and she didn't get into the whole spirit of it. And I think not being in the village was a major reason.
I'm glad I did. It was so special, something I'll always remember.
Pam Shriver, 33, played on the U.S. Olympic tennis team in 1988. She won a gold medal in doubles playing with Zina Garrison Jackson.