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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 24, 2002

Olympic collection on display at expo

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Jesse Owens inspired many young Americans to lace up their running shoes.

Aloha Muscle & Fitness

• What: 2002 Aloha Muscle & Fitness Extravaganza

• When: Tomorrow, noon-8 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Monday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

• Where: Hawai'i Convention Center

• Admission: $10

• Information: 306-6321

But the Olympic gold medalist also inspired Jin De Silva, who watched a video of the 1936 Berlin Games.

Not just to run. But to collect.

For the past 59 years, De Silva has accumulated more than 10,000 pieces of Olympic history, from pins to ashtrays to beer mugs.

More than 5,000 pieces from his collection will be on display at the 2002 Aloha Muscle & Fitness Extravaganza this weekend at the Hawai'i Convention Center.

Inspired by Owens, De Silva started running, with the hopes of representing Sri Lanka. In 1948 and 1952, he made it to the Olympic trials in the 400-meter sprint and hurdles. But his country couldn't afford to send a lot of competitors, so De Silva was left behind.

But that didn't suppress his fervor for the Games.

"I was inspired to make a dream for myself," he said. "(Collecting) has kept the Olympic spirit within me."

Since moving to Hawai'i in 1979, he has attended five Olympics, meeting many of the heroes who ignited his passion for the Games.

But his greatest pleasure is sharing his collection with children.

"I'm not a man who sells anything or makes a profit from this," said the 73-year-old De Silva, who now lives in Hawai'i Kai. "My main motive is to inspire the younger generation. That is the biggest happiness I can achieve, to impart my Olympic spirit onto others."

De Silva plans to bring one of his most memorable: a commemorative gold medal of Jesse Owens, given to him by Owens' widow, whom he met at the 1984 Summer Games.

The expo will also feature health and fitness demonstrations, seminars, athletic competitions and indoor rockclimbing.

Schedule highlights

• Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Pac-Rim/State Championships: Gracie is a Brazilian "street" style of the traditional martial arts. Champion competitor and instructor Bas "El Guapo" Rutten will be conducting a Gracie seminar 1 p.m. tomorrow. Competitions will take place at 10 a.m. Sunday and Monday.

• Miss Aloha "Sexiest" Bikini Contest: More than 40 women will compete at 6 p.m. tomorrow for the $5,000 overall prize and a trip to Las Vegas.

• NPC Aloha Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships: More than 60 bodybuilders will compete for the title at 6 p.m. Sunday.

• God of Squats: A competition of the strongest legs in Hawai'i, this event takes place at 10 a.m. Monday. Every lifter who squats 1,000 pounds walks (hopefully) away with $2,000.

• Samson & Goliath: Bench press your bodyweight for cash. This event, held at 10 a.m. Sunday, tests strength and endurance.

• Challenge the Dragan: Watch competitors challenge 53-year-old Dragan Radovich to 35-pound dumbell reps at 2 p.m. Monday. If anyone can beat him — he'll even take on groups of competitors with their combined number of reps — he'll hand the winner $10,000.