LONDON – It’s been 64 years, but Lionel Price can still smell the freshly pumped-up basketballs and hear the squeaky shoes on the court. His basketball uniform is still intact and he’s pretty sure he could still fit into it, although it seems a bit small by today’s standards.
“Very short shorts!” Price said. “We had the minimum amount of equipment.”
Wu “Eddie” Chengzhang doesn’t have to think far back to remember his last jaunt around the basketball court. The 88-year-old retired for a second time in 2006 and coaches a senior citizen basketball league.
Both played basketball for their respective teams at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. Price, 86, played for Great Britain, while Chengzhang traveled from China.
The men hadn’t set eyes on each other since they met in a game China won 54-25, but each instantly remembered the other at a press conference at the London Media Centre.
“I remember he’s older than me!” Price joked.
“I feel very happy to be with Lionel,” Chengzhang replied.
This was Chengzhang’s first visit back to London since 1948.
“I find London quite familiar,” Chengzhang said.
After the press conference, they went sightseeing together and rode the London Eye, which wasn’t here 64 years ago.
“I’m very excited to see the change of the city of London,” Chengzhang said.
In 1948, the Chinese team fared better than Great Britain, earning 18th place while Great Britain placed 20th of 23 teams that participated. The U.S. won the gold medal that year.
Price said gold was not important to him.
“I came from a generation where it wasn’t winning or losing, it was taking part,” Price said. “It upsets me when people cry over a silver or bronze.”
Wu agreed. He said it was more about the experience for him.
“I reached the peak of my own life at the Olympics. I realized my dream at the 1948 games,” Chengzhang said.
The former Olympians have followed the Olympic Games since and seen the many changes over the last six decades. Price was particularly impressed with the televising of each and every sport.
“There was very little media coverage (back then),” Price said. “Television wasn’t a factor.”
One thing that has not changed is the friendship between the men. Both insist there is no rivalry between them.
“I wish that the friendship between China and the U.K. will last forever,” Chengzhang said.
Both watched when Great Britain won Monday’s game against China, 90-58.
“Whoever wins, so be it,” Price said the day before the game.