The Post-Journal

Local Man Remembers His Meeting With Ali

Muhammad Ali was one of the most legendary and polarizing athletes to ever grace the earth.

His 56-5 record, including 37 knockouts, speaks to his gifts in the ring, but it’s what he stood for outside of boxing that also captivated countless people around the world.

Ali, after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984, devoted a great deal of his life to philanthropic causes, receiving numerous awards for his public service.

One organization that Ali dedicated his time and effort toward was the Special Olympics.

As “The Greatest” is laid to rest today, it is interesting to note that Bob Goold, the local Special Olympics volunteer and event coordinator, once had the opportunity to meet Ali through an international Special Olympics event in Dublin, Ireland in 2003.

“I was over with team USA in Ireland for the 2003 Special Olympics World Games,” Goold recalled. “I was with the USA powerlifting team. We knew Ali had come to the opening ceremonies. He didn’t really speak, but he came out and waved to people and we knew he was there.

“A couple days after the opening ceremonies, I was at the Olympic Village with a couple of our athletes and this guy came over and asked if I was a coach with team USA,” Goold continued. “The guy goes, ‘Well, we want you to meet us back here in half an hour. We are going to take you to lunch.’ So I met them back there and they had this little golf cart and we went into the VIP tent, which was a big tent.

“There were athletes from Africa and like Trinidad and Tobago. We were told we were going to have lunch now and a special guest is coming to speak to the athletes. There were about 20 of us (in the tent), probably 10-15 athletes and probably 7 or 8 coaches.”

Little did Goold and the athletes know, but they were going to be greeted by the champ himself, Muhammad Ali.

“A couple of minutes after we got done finishing our lunch, in comes two golf carts and in one of them was Muhammad Ali,” Goold said. “And he gets out and he sits at the head of the table and he was very frail to the point where he had to have help walking. He was quite shaky. His head was shaking, his hands were shaking, but he sat there and he spoke very softy. A lady was there with him. I’m not sure who the female was, but she spoke out loud for him.

“Ali was like, ‘I’m very proud of all of you athletes,’” Goold added. “Really he was very gracious and everybody’s eyes were transfixed on this guy. He was speaking and he was speaking from the heart. He said (to the athletes), ‘I’m very proud of all of you, you’re my heroes.’ He sat there for probably half an hour shaking the whole time. Each athlete walked up to him, some gave him a hug, some shook his hand. I got a chance to go up and shake his hand. I got right down (next to him) and said, ‘Nice to meet you champ.’”

Goold laughed and said, “as I bent over, he put his fist against my cheek. It was pretty cool and it was kind of like a nice little punch. He was gracious and humble. His humility was what struck me. He’s with these Special Olympians and you think of him as being the World Champion and the most recognized guy in the world, yet he really wanted all the attention to go toward all of the Special Olympians that were there. It was really a touching moment in my life, really.”

When he was younger and in college at Brockport, Goold admitted he was more of a Joe Frazier fan. But as the years went on, Goold developed an admiration for Ali and what he stood for.

“As I got older and learned more about Muhammad, I sort of began to follow him and understand the trials and tribulations of his life,” Goold explained. “I began to respect the guy for his convictions. (Meeting him) was one of the most magical moments of my life.”

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