Pre on display
COOS BAY — Linda Prefontaine holds up track T-shirts, a letterman jacket and photos of her brother Steve Prefontaine, sporting his signature mustache — memorabilia that has never been seen by the public before now.
His Olympic ring serves as the crown jewel in a collection of items that is on display at the Coos History Museum and Maritime Collection beginning today, in time for the annual Prefontaine Memorial Run.
Prefontaine recently returned to her hometown from Eugene to help curate the exhibit. She said she plans to move back to the area after more than 40 years and start giving tours of Coos Bay, focusing on places her brother has run.
The Prefontaine siblings grew up in Coos Bay, playing sports with other neighborhood kids. Eventually Steve Prefontaine started running while at Marshfield High School and the rest is history.
Prefontaine said growing up in a town mostly dominated by the logging and fishing industry made you grow up tough.
"There's a toughness about this area and the weather," Prefontaine said, "It's about running in the wind when it's blowing. You don't not work out because the rain is coming in sideways and the wind is blowing 40 miles an hour."
Despite his fame as a serious competitor, Prefontaine said her brother had a lighter side. She said he was always a jokester.
"He was always pulling pranks on people. I think he was so focused later on that I don't think people saw that side of him," she said.
She said she was always very competitive with her brother growing up. "Being a younger sister you get thumped on a lot," she said.
No stranger to the sports world herself, Prefontaine was a professional racquetball player. She understands some of the sacrifices her brother had to make. "You have to live a slightly different lifestyle than you would if you didn't have that dedication and devotion to wanting to be the best," she said.
Prefontaine competed just as Title IX was being enacted, at a time when women's sports weren't considered important. She said it was a lot tougher for women to get acknowledged back then.
"The world didn't look at women's sports as entertaining," she said. "I think over the years they've discovered women's sports are very entertaining. There are a lot of wonderful, great women athletes."
Just as women's sports have changed over the years, so too, has running. Now runners get paid to compete, something that wasn't as common 40 years ago. "Now runners get paid big bucks. He didn't do it for the money certainly, because there was almost no money back then," Prefontaine said.
She said her brother contributed so much to the sport to make it better and not everyone does that.
"Media likes to say who the next Steve Prefontaine is going to be and I say there is never going to be another Steve Prefontaine, because you can't duplicate the package and have the same results," the sister said. "There are a lot of great runners who have surpassed all of his times, but they don't have his personality."
The temporary display should be up today and runs through November.