A lot has changed since Caitlyn Jenner walked away from the 1976 Summer Olympics an international champion. To start, her name was Bruce then and she identified publicly as a man.
Four decades after being granted the gold, the highly famous public figure has returned to Sports Illustrated to grace the cover once again. For her last appearance on the cover nearly 40 years ago, she sported blue track shorts and a red tank top adorned with white lettering spelling out "USA," her muscular arms held triumphantly in the wind. Today, she poses on the cover in a gold sequin jumpsuit, brunette tresses cascading around her face and a red manicure framing her waist.
"It's a picture that brings attention to this issue," she told Sports Illustrated. "That's the important thing. That's why I wore the medal."
Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair
The statement can be interpreted in two different ways—is she talking about this issue of the magazine celebrating her special anniversary? Or the social issues surrounding Jenner, once the ultimate symbol of masculinity in America, now a national emblem of the LGBTQ community.
"For those two days in July of 1976, I was the best in the world at what I did," Jenner told the magazine. "On the other hand, the decathlon was my best friend, and that was over. I lost my beard."
While the sport provided an escape for the star, Jenner says she was not pleased with the physical side effects of becoming an Olympian.
"It disgusted me. I was big and thick and masculine. The rest of the world thought it was this Greek god kind of body. I hated it. But it's what I was given, so I just tried to do the best I could with it."
"Being a macho male was a way for me to try to convince myself that the woman living inside of me really isn't living inside me," she continued. "Obviously, it didn't work."
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
In fact, it seems no better metaphor can be found in this interview for her past and present life converging than the fact that Jenner keeps the medal in her bathroom nail drawer. While she is immensely proud of her athletic career, Jenner's second act makes her feel like she's serving a greater good.
"Sports. It's not real life," she said. "You go out there, you work hard, you train your ass off, win the Games. I'm very proud of that part of my life. And it's not like I just want to throw it out. It's part of who I am. What I'm dealing with now, this is about who you are as a human being. What did I do for the world in 1976, besides maybe getting a few people to exercise a little bit? I didn't make a difference in the world."
According to Jenner, had she not became an Olympian with the celebrity power that followed, she would not have had the same kind of social influence 40 years later.
"Certainly life would have been different. The gender issues, I was never getting away from. But things would have been different," Jenner reflected. "I would hope I would be doing some of the things I'm doing today, but certainly not on the same scale."
Though Bruce Jenner is no longer a member of present American society, he represents something important for Caitlyn.
"I loved Bruce… I still love him today. I like what he did and the way he set an example for hard work and dedication. I'm proud of that part of my life. But this woman was living inside me, all my life, and it reached the point where I had to let her live and put Bruce inside," she admitted. "And I am happier, these last 12 months, than I've ever been in my life."
NBC will begin broadcasting the Summer Olympic games on Aug. 5.