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Bruce Jenner

updated 07/15/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/15/1996 AT 01:00 AM EDT

In 1976, Bruce Jenner had it all: movie-star looks, a gold medal for a record-shattering decathlon in Montreal, a house in Malibu that he shared with his wife, Chrystie, and a portfolio of endorsements for such all-American products as Wheaties. He earned this bounty through fanatical hard work—training up to eight hours, 365 days a year. "What's amazing to me is how dedicated and intense I was," he recalls. But a decade later, Jenner felt like a has-been. He had met Linda Thompson, the late Elvis Presley's former live-in lover, in 1980 and wound up in a messy divorce from Chrystie. That second marriage lasted barely five years, a failure Linda blamed on Bruce's frequent travels as a TV pitchman and sports commentator. By the late 1980s, Jenner admits, "I was drifting. I had worked really hard and didn't have much to show for it. But everything turned around the day I met Kris."

Kris is the former Kris Kardashian, the ex-wife of O.J. pal Robert Kardashian. Jenner met her on a blind date in 1990, and they wed five months later. The couple live in a five-bedroom, French-style country chateau in Los Angeles with their daughter Kendall Nicole, born last November and named after Nicole Simpson ("a very special friend," says Kris). Between them, the pair have eight other children. Kris, now in her late 30s, helped organize a family conglomerate comprising their infomercials (SuperFit with Bruce and Kris Jenner), exercise products (like stair-climbing machines) and an aircraft sales company (Bruce has been flying for years). Kris also got his sports medals framed—including the Olympic gold, which had been buried in a sock drawer. Like Bruce at 46, they shine again.

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