100 days of Kansas City-area Olympians: Steve Fritz, decathlon

Posted at 8:00 AM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 09:00:29-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Before Steve Fritz narrowly missed a medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, he competed in the decathlon and played basketball at Kansas State University.

Fritz, a Salina, Kansas, native, was an All-American and Big Eight champion in the decathlon in both 1989 and 1990, setting the conference’s record in the event as a senior.

He placed sixth and fourth at the NCAA Track and Field Championships during those seasons.

During the Olympics, Fritz was on a U.S. decathlon team that also included gold medalist Dan O’Brien, who famously missed the 1992 Barcelona Olympics amid a highly publicized “Dan vs. Dave” ad campaign by Reebok.

O’Brien dominated during the 1996 Olympic Games, but Fritz held his own, winning the discus during the 10-event decathlon and finishing fourth overall.

He wound up 20 points behind bronze-medalist Tomáš Dvořák of the Czech Republic.

Prior to that, Fritz won gold at the 1991 Summer Universiade Games and silver at the 1994 Goodwill Games among a total of 10 national-team appearances during his decathlon career.

Fritz also played for the Wildcats basketball team in 1988-89 and 1990-91, according to his K-State Athletics Hall of Fame bio.

He originally entered college on a basketball scholarship at Hutchinson Community College, helping the Blue Dragons to the 1988 NJCAA Division I men’s basketball national championship.

Fritz also won the junior college national title in the decathlon that year and eventually transferred to K-State on a track scholarship.

As a basketball walk-on, Fritz scarcely saw the floor in 1988-89, but he averaged 3.1 points and 2.0 rebounds in a little more than 10 minutes per game as a senior in 1990-91.

Fritz, who was inducted into the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame last year, remained in Manhattan after graduating and became an assistant track and field coach in charge of throwing events.

Upon retiring from K-State, he became a basketball coach at his high school alma mater, Wamego. He also coaches the middle school track team in Wamego.

His wife, Suzie Fritz, has coached the K-State volleyball team for 20 seasons. The Wildcats are 363-236 during her tenure, which includes 12 NCAA tourney appearances and back-to-back Big 12 Coach of the Year awards in 2002 and 2003.

The Kansas City region has a deep, rich history with respect to the Olympic Games. As the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games approach with the Opening Ceremony scheduled for July 23, we will profile an athlete with ties to Kansas City, Missouri or Kansas each day.

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