Demon great opens his Olympic Games scrapbook -
†Being part of the United States' delegation competing in the
Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, was every bit as thrilling and rewarding
as you would imagine it to be.
head coach for the menís 2004 USA Olympic Weightlifting Team was a great
honor. It marked the first time that a Louisiana coach served as head
weightlifting coach. My mentor, Alvin Roy, served as team manager for
the 1952 USA Olympic Weightlifting Team at the Games held in Helsinki,
Despite all of
the flash and hoopla attached to the Super Bowl and the NBA Finals, and the
tradition of baseball's World Series, and even the global interest in the
World Cup of soccer, there is still nothing in sports quite like the
Olympics. It is the number one sporting event in the world.
I've watched with great interest through the years, enjoying each Olympiad,
especially those in which some of my lifters were able to compete.
privilege to participate has given me an even greater appreciation for the
Olympic experience, and why I hope that the Olympic movement can continue
to wade past the choppy waters of international politics and provide us
with reminders about what is fundamentally good about humanity.
Ceremony was one of the most inspiring events of my life. Watching
the production that was spectacularly done, filled with cultural and sports
history, and then experiencing the thrill of marching into the spectacular
Olympic stadium behind our nation's flag is impossible to describe.
touching moment for me was the lighting of the torch. I was standing fairly
close to the flame and I had a feeling that this represented my reaching
the summit of my career.
is a word that you do not hear used often enough in athletics today, but it
was alive at the Olympics. Michael Phelps proved this, when after
winning six gold and two bronze medals in swimming events he handed his
spot on the 400-meter medley relay to Ivan Crocker so that a fellow
teammate could win a gold medal.
Phelps may be
remembered more for this act of sportsmanship than the six gold medals he
won, and he should be.
eye-popping to sit in the dining hall and people-watch. We think of the
Chinese people, for example, as being small. Well, when you saw 7-footer
Chinese basketball players (not just NBA star Yao Ming) and 6-5 Chinese
women's basketball players that shattered my perception of the Chinese! It
was simply breathtaking to observe the spectrum of extraordinary athletes
parading through the dining hall each day, and to see them interacting.
another wonderful aspect of the Olympic experience -- having the chance to
meet fellow coaches and competitors from around the world. The Olympic
spirit you hear about is a palpable presence in the Olympic Village, the
city of Athens and indeed, the entire country of Greece. The Greek people
were wonderful hosts and worked very hard to assure visiting competitors
that the Olympic experience would live up to their dreams. I am sure many
of us will try to return to Athens sometime, as we were all busy involved
in our competitions and didn't have the chance to fully enjoy the many
attractions of this ancient land.
competitions, despite all the wonderful aspects of the Olympics I have
described, our purpose for being in Athens was always our primary focus. I
was pleased with the performance of the USA in our sport, and I'm glad to
say that the leadership of USA Weightlifting was pleased as well.
weightlifters were successful in the fact that they all placed higher than
they were ranked going into the competition. Our highest ranked
lifter was super-heavy weight Shane Hamman, who was ranked 14th in the
world. Shane took seventh place in the Olympics and set two American
records. He clean & jerked 523 Ĺ pounds and snatched 418 pounds
for a total of 941 Ĺ pounds.
is now officially the strongest man in the history of USA
Weightlifting. Many of you may have seen Shaneís All State Insurance
commercial where he lowers the weight and it crashes through three levels
to the parking basement below and crushes a car. Fortunately, that
was the figment of some ad agency's creative genius, but it was also a
great way to illustrate what a remarkable competitor Shane is!
efforts here, let me again say it -- words hardly express what itís like to
be part of the Olympic Games. It was especially satisfying since they
were held in Athens, Greece, the home of the Modern Olympics, and the
hallowed site where the Olympics were born in 776 BC.
I still get
excited recalling my Olympic experience. It was tremendously gratifying to
represent the United States, but most of all, to feel the pride and support
expressed by my friends back home in Baton Rouge, and my friends from my
days at Northwestern as a basketball player and student. Before I left for
Greece, there was a dinner given in my honor in Baton Rouge and many of
those people gathered. I was touched to see Dr. Chris Maggio and Coach Mike
McConathy, among others, representing Northwestern.
A couple of
days after my return from Athens, we were back at work in the gym, because
the training never stops. But we'll take a little break in mid-October to
come home to Northwestern for homecoming, and then, I hope I can share with
you in person some of my pride in representing you, and the USA, at the
Athens Olympic Games.