Written by Lyle Ahrens, Posted: Fri, August 3 2012 at 3:22 PM, Updated: Thu, August 9 2012 at 1:30 PM
A former U.S. Olympic team member now works as a physical therapist in Klamath Falls.
Luke Klaja was a weightlifter who made the team in 1980.
Luke Klaja's road to the Olympics passed through the Rogue Valley...
"I was training in Jacksonville, Oregon in a one car, unheated garage - a gravel floor, actually had to lift the weights in between the rafters of the garage."
Klaja notes that he qualified for Olympic trials in 1976, but didn't make the team. "I made it in '80, then the boycott appeared."
Klaja finds the reason behind the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Summer Games ironic...
"Irony is a good word... 32 years ago, the Russians were in Afganistan. And right now, we are in Afganistan. It seems to have done a full circle."
While he didn't get to compete, Klaja says he's still proud to have made the team. "They always say, 'Once an Olympian, always an Olympian' - and so, I'm an alumni, very proud of the fact that I qualified to be one of 440 athletes that made the summer team."
Klaja still holds U.S. National Masters records for lifting.
And he still pays close attention to the Olympics...
"Always. Everytime I hear the Olympic fanfare, you get goose bumps."
Klaja now works with others to help them reach their physical peak.
Klaja made an attempt to qualify for the 1984 summer games, and placed fourth in his weight class at the Olympic trials. However, only the top three made it to the U.S. Olympic roster.
KOTI-TV NBC2 reporter Lyle Ahrens moved from Nebraska to Klamath Falls in the late 1970's. He instantly fell in love with the mountains, the trees and the rivers, and never once regretted the move.
Lyle's job history is quite colorful. He’s managed a pizza parlor; he’s been a bartender, and a “kiwifruit grader” at an organic orchard in New Zealand. A Klamath Falls radio station hired Lyle in the mid 90's as a news writer and commercial producer. In 2004, Lyle joined the KOTI/KOBI news operation.
Lyle notes with pride that he has a big responsibility presenting the Klamath Basin to a wide and varied audience. "The on-going water crisis has underscored the fact that the people and the issues in the Klamath Basin are every bit as diverse as the terrain. Winning and keeping the trust of the viewers, as well as the newsmakers, is something I strive for with each story".
When he's not busy reporting the news, Lyle enjoys astronomy, playing guitar, fixing old radios and listening to anything by Sheryl Crow.