Las Vegas Institute of Sport
Colours: Imperial Purple and Olympic Gold (Originally Imperial Purple only – Olympic Gold was added in 1976 in recognition of Barry’s Olympic Gold Medal)
Ethos: LVIS is an organisation dedicated to the pursuit of sporting excellence without the unfortunate level of seriousness that seems to infect so many other sporting societies. We race hard but believe that it’s essential to enjoy it just as much as the effort we put in.
LVIS membership is mainly by word of mouth via current members but we are always interested to take on new people if they can bring something to the LVIS squad and live up to the LVIS ethos. If you believe that’s you, feel free to get in touch.
LVIS competes in many sports but has been most active in recent years in cycling (all disciplines), rowing and triathlon.
Barry Jaeger – LVSA / LVIS Founder
The Birth of the Legend
Barry Randy Jaeger was born on January 1st 1955, just as the boom times began in the gambling town of Las Vegas, NV. The son of a successful gambler and a showgirl. Barry’s father, Bo Jaeger had moved to Las Vegas in the late 1940s having served with distinction in the Jaeger Company, the famous bicycle infantry unit where he was legendary for being able to keep up with mechanised units.
Barry showed early athletic promise and was captain of three school teams until, in his Junior Varsity year, a scandal involving his Headmaster’s wife resulted in his expulsion. Banned from all college teams, Barry started sculling on the pond of the Mirage Hotel, under the fountains and established his own club – the Las Vegas Sculling Association (LVSA). Blessed with fearsome legs (shaved, of course) and golden locks he cut quite a dash on the water and rapidly gained recognition for his sporting prowess.
Correction – Following some research it seems that the previous paragraph isn’t entirely accurate. It turns out that contrary to popular belief Barry actually used the Bellagio for his sculling training favouring its expansive lake. He would play to the onlookers by narrowly avoiding the fountains though occasionally he was caught out and his boat was launched 30 feet into the air. However, much to the annoyance of the then owner, Sergio Colantoni, he would always wind down in the Rhumbar in The Mirage after a hard day on the lake, allegedly due to having a bit of a liking for at least one of the waitresses. The owner of the Bellagio eventually grew tired of his disloyalty and banned him from using the Bellagio and made sure that any record of Barry using his lake was removed from the annals of history. Barry tried to use the Mirage ponds but found them too small for sculling and the active volcano in the centre singed his boat so instead he used it for swim training and set about building a rowing facility out of town that later became known as Lake Las Vegas.
Keen to keep fresh mentally, Barry branched out into other sports and took to them with style, winning several national titles in athletics, cycling (track and road) and swimming and rapidly achieved selection for the US international teams with a natural progression to taking numerous World Championship titles.
(It is a little known fact that the sport of Triathlon was born in 1977 when Barry took part in the National Championships for all three sports on the same day due to an unfortunate calendar clash. Barry won the Swimming championship in the morning, the Cycling road race championship in the early afternoon and the 10,000m athletics title in the evening)
The birth of the Institute
It was at this time that the Las Vegas Institute of Sport was founded in order to provide an organisation to support elite athletes who could see past the sad bureaucracy and small-minded officialdom that existed in many sports while retaining an enjoyment for the good things in life.
Barry’s first national title was won in the 1974 season when he crossed the line in the lead at the US Road Race Championship. Unfortunately his arch rival Rushton Ridgely the Sixth, who finished second, protested the result claiming that Barry had blocked him in the final sprint despite Barry having won cleanly and by a comfortable margin. Rushton Ridgely was from an extremely wealthy East Coast family and hated Barry for having “not knowing his place”, coming as he did from a far from wealthy background. Rushton paid off several riders and officials to back up his claims regarding Barry’s riding and as a consequence, Barry was disqualified.
Understandably, Barry and his LVIS team mates were outraged at this and in recognition of the fact that Barry should have been the rightful wearer of the US national champion’s jersey for the 1975 season, LVIS changed its colours for one season to match the US jersey and to make the point in a very obvious way about the rightful wearer of it.
In 1975, Barry made certain that there could be no repeat of the previous year’s drama and won the US National Road Race crossing the line alone with a lead of 37 minutes, having attacked right from the start and ridden everyone else off his wheel.
Also in 1975 Barry was leading the Giro d’Italia by a comfortable margin. Unfortunately, on the first rest day, Barry lost a game of poker with his arch rival which had been run with stakes where the winner would take the race honours while the loser would be forced to lose so much time that he would come in last. Barry was forced to the back of the field and Fausto Bertoglio won the race. Barry spent the rest of the Giro making liaisons with the podium girls whilst glugging Martini Rosso and eating imported meat every afternoon, being sure to keep a careful eye on the cut-off time. After the race, Barry found out that the game of poker had been fixed by Fausto’s teammate Diego Rustini.
To reflect this injustice of the lost Giro he returned the next year wearing the traditional (between 1940-1951) Black Jersey, worn by the last rider in the peloton (Laterne Rouge equiv) with a swathe of pink around it to reflect what should have been his maiden Grand Tour Win.
With several national and world titles to his name, Barry was unsurprisingly selected to compete at the 1976 Olympics in several sports and disciplines. Unfortunately Barry’s expected domination of the Olympics was cut short after one event (the Single Scull) in which he won a Gold Medal – Just a fortnight before the Olympics, an experiment with skin-tight rowing shorts resulted in an unfortunate and embarrassing accident at Henley Royal Regatta (resulting in a lifetime ban) which, while not stopping him winning the Diamond Sculls, did meant that after winning the rowing event at the Olympics in considerable pain, Barry required some time out to recover! In true Jaeger style, Barry “recuperated” in Monte Carlo with Bo Derek.
Crossing the Water
Barry’s withdrawal from the Montreal Olympics caused quite a storm in the US Olympic Association owing to political pressure from the top – Barry’s withdrawal and the US’ consequent loss of a further 10 predicted gold medals had meant that the US’ medal tally was well short of expectation, being beaten by both the USSR and East Germany instead of topping the table. With the cold war in full swing Barry became a persona-non-grata.
Barry was extremely unhappy at the controversy and vowed to leave the US and re-settle in Europe. LVIS was also relocated while retaining its name. Once settled in the UK, Barry was the first American to win a stage on the Tour De France (but as an amateur and hence why the fact has all but disappeared) and is also rumoured to has invented the first mountain bike based on a design he came up with in 1970.
Barry was famous outside sporting circles for his playboy reputation and his entourage – He was the only sculler to have his boat carried for him by six scantily-clad blondes.
The LVIS Penultimates
During the 1978 season, Barry suffered a serious leg injury after jumping out from the 5th floor of the Dorchester Hotel where a Hollywood leading lady had been staying while visiting London. Unfortunately her husband arrived at the hotel suite unexpectedly and Barry leapt out of the window to save his lady friend’s blushes. Unsurprisingly, the recuperation from the resultant broken leg interrupted Barry’s season quite severely. Barry, not wanting to stop racing entirely realised that there was a need for an LVIS team for those recovering from injury or circumstance and established the ‘LVIS Penultimates‘, an unofficial squad for those not on top form. In order to ensure that this team still had a clear goal, any team racing under the Penultimates names has to ensure that they finish second last in their category – a challenge that is often the equal of the usual level of LVIS performance.
The Las Vegas Pirates
During the early days of LVIS, there was another sporting association based in Las Vegas that was founded upon very similar aims to LVIS: The Las Vegas Pirates. The LVP was started by the charismatic Gretchen Silver, an icon in pushing the boundaries of women’s sport at the time with her athletic performances in several sports that exceeded many of the US men’s team.
Unfortunately, an accident involving a javelin during the Las Vegas International Athletics Championships in 1976 left Gretchen without sight in one eye. With the resulting eye patch, Gretchen soon became an un-missable symbol of Las Vegas sport but found that jealously of both her popularity and performances from many of her male counterparts left her marginalised at her club and at international events. Rather than giving in to this, she decided to found the ‘Las Vegas Pirates’ as a sporting team that rose above politics and with a name that provided a nod to her injury and her nickname of ‘Long Joan Silver‘
The LVP found favour with many other athletes in the area and rapidly became highly successful. In 1982 Gretchen and Barry began a relationship that set the tabloids of Las Vegas on fire but also eventually resulted in the Pirates being amalgamated into LVIS, which was the larger and marginally more successful of the two teams, in 1984. This provided a huge surge in the Institute’s capacity and performances.
While the merging of the teams was very popular amongst members of both of the original teams, the ex-Pirates remained proud of their heritage and continued to regularly race as the ‘LVIS Pirates‘ wearing clothing showing the original Las Vegas Pirates logo but in purple and gold accents rather than their original black and white.
The Hawaii Institute of Sport (THIS)
At the end of each season, Barry spent time recuperating in Hawaii, enjoying the simple pleasures of the beautiful islands. Being such a world renown sportsman, the local athletes would often ask Barry to help out with coaching and motivation while he was there. After a few years, Barry realised that Hawaii needed its own sporting institute and help to found The Hawaii Institute of Sport (THIS) which was lead by Pali Laekeli, a world-class surfer born and bred in Hawaii but who usually preferred to compete at home. THIS has very close links to LVIS that continue to this day and their kit reflects this, using the same colours as LVIS.
Rio Institutuo do Esporte (RIdE)
Barry also liked to train in Rio de Janeiro during the off season which also happened to coincide with the world famous carnival. He was hosted by the Rio Institutuo do Esporte and often raced incognito under their colours which reflected the Brazilian flag.
Riders on the Storm
LVIS has always enjoyed running spectacular events. Started in the late 60s, LVIS ran a road race that took place overnight against the dazzling Las Vegas skyline out in the desert. It was common for huge storms to hammer the race making it a test of bravery as much as skill and fitness. The race was dubbed ‘Riders on the Storm’, a title that came to fame soon after when an upcoming band who were playing in Las Vegas heard about the race…
The final act
Barry sadly died in March 2007 after attempting to repeat his triple National Championship success of 1974. Barry was highly superstitious and hated to race with the number 13, always turning it upside down if forced to wear it. Unfortunately his beliefs were borne out when he was allocated the number 13 for this race. While attempting to lap the field for the second time during the athletics 10,000m, he suffered a heart attack and died shortly after. His last words were reported to be ‘Go Vegas’.