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Henry Cejudo Is Why They Hold The Olympics

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#1 Guest_Chicano_*


Posted August 21, 2008 - 01:16 PM

(Great story I read on the LA Times, saw the video soon afterwards on nbcolympics.com since I missed it initially live & wouldn't have known about it & man, just wow. It is deeply touching.)


Henry Cejudo is why they hold the Olympics

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BEIJING -- You travel 6,257 miles in search of Olympic moments, and what happens?

The Olympic moments find you.

It happens every two years, and it happened again Tuesday afternoon as I sat in the Tribune office here, prepared to write a column about the U.S. women’s soccer team.

Kevin Baxter, another Times writer, suddenly popped up from the printer and began waving a piece of paper in my face.

“Hey, you going over to the wrestling match?’’ he said.

"What wrestling match?" I said.

"It’s the Los Angeles-born son of two undocumented Mexican immigrants wrestling for a gold medal," he said. "It says here he just qualified for the finals in two hours."

At that point, I had never heard of Henry Cejudo. I’m guessing most of America had never heard of Henry Cejudo.

He’s a 21-year-old kid wrestler who lost in the first round of last year’s world championships, so how would anybody have heard of him?

His 121-pound Olympic competition had only started Tuesday morning, so he had to pull three upsets in about three hours to get to the final. So how could anybody have kept up with him?

That’s how it works in the Olympics. In a span of two minutes, a stranger can become a story, and you can be charged with turning anonymity into art, or something like that.

Twenty minutes earlier, I wouldn’t have known Henry Cejudo from Henry Winkler. But now that I knew him, I had to see him.

“I’m going," said Baxter, whose energy finished selling me on the story.

"OK, I’m going with you," I said.

I stopped writing the soccer story, packed up my large rolling briefcase (everyone calls me a bag lady) and boarded a bus headed for the Beijing Agricultural University Gymnasium (or, as I like to call it, Beijing A & M.).

There were only a few American reporters there. Like me, others must have missed the e-mail announcing the match. Unlike me, they didn’t have Kevin Baxter to save them.

Even before the match, I felt something special. As the loudspeaker played rock music, seemingly everyone in the arena began dancing. Even the round, stoic wrestling judges were dancing.

It was as if they knew they were about to witness something cool. And sure enough, Cejudo came out diving and grabbing and eventually throwing Tomohiro Matsunaga on his side.

I don’t understand much about wrestling scoring. But it was clear Cejudo was the aggressor, and it clearly made sense that he won the first two rounds, thus clinching the best-of-three round match.

What happened next, I never could have guessed.

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Many of us watching Cejudo felt very patriotic, knowing his childhood struggles as he was raised with five siblings by a single mother who worked menial jobs from Los Angeles to Las Cruces to Phoenix.

Only in America, it seemed, could a kid grow up poor and anonymous and rise above it all to win an Olympic gold.

We knew. We had no idea that Cejudo also knew.

After winning the match, his welted face cracked into a flood of tears. He then grabbed a flag and spent the next 15 minutes using it for everything.

He buried his face in it. He wrapped his body in it. He used as a cape to flap behind him as he walked around the arena.

He cried, and clutched the flag, and cried some more, and soon some in the stands were about to cry with him.

I have never seen, in any Olympic champion, such a genuine gratitude toward America. It is, so far, my best Beijing Olympic moment.

Thank you, Henry Cejudo, for finding me.

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-- Bill Plaschke

"I'm proud of my Mexican heritage," Cejudo said. "But I'm an American. It's the best country in the world. They call it the land of opportunity, and it is. Maybe if some other kid watches this, he can do the same."

Way more on the story here as far as details, in depth, quotes, interviews, and the ACTUAL video:

http://www.nbcolympi... freestyle gold

BEIJING (AP) -- Henry Cejudo, the 21-year-old prodigy who had competed in only one world-level senior tournament before Beijing, won the gold medal Tuesday at Olympic freestyle 55-kilogram wrestling.

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Cejudo, crying the moment the match ended and wrapping himself in an American flag, defeated Tomohiro Matsunaga of Japan 2-2 on tiebreaker and 3-0 in the best-of-three match. Cejudo was 31st in last year's world championships, his only prior tournament at this level.

Cejudo, the son of undocumented Mexican aliens who bypassed a college career to try to become an Olympian, assures of the United States of winning a freestyle wrestling gold for the ninth consecutive Olympics at which it has competed.

The bronze medalists were last year's world champion, Besik Kudukhov of Russia, and Radoslav Velikov of Bulgaria. Kudukhov was pinned by Matsunaga in the semifinals.

Two years after U.S. coach Kevin Jackson called him the future of wrestling, the future became the present in a dazzling four-match flurry, making Cejudo the youngest American to win an Olympic wrestling gold medal.

None of the other 49 did it the way he did.

"I always knew I was going to be here," Cejudo said, his blackened right eye a contrast to the gold medal he clutched ever-so-tight. "I watched the Olympics as a kid and I knew I'd be here. It was tough. But it's all worth it."

The tears that fell moments after he defeated Matsunaga gave way to a smile as wide as a wrestling mat, as he realized what he had done it. And, too, how he had done it.

American wrestlers are supposed to go to college, then enter the Olympic program when they're experienced and ready; Cejudo did so at age 17 and is the only wrestler to win a national senior championship before leaving high school.

From high school to the big time -- the same path LeBron James and Kobe Bryant took in basketball.

On his day of days, Cejudo all but gave away periods, gambling he'd have enough energy to wear down his opponents in the last two periods, admittedly causing Jackson moments of panic.

"I'm kind of unorthodox," Cejudo said.

The whiz kid won because he was every bit a wizard against wrestlers older and more wizened. His success story is the kind that seems hackneyed and a cliche, at least until it happens with the Olympics as a backdrop.

"This proves that whatever you want to do as an American, you can do it," Cejudo said.

His parents were undocumented Mexicans who met in Los Angeles. His mother had six kids, four with his father, Jorge, who was in and out of prison until dying of heart problems at age 44 last year. Henry never saw him after age 4.

The family was miserably poor, sometimes moving from apartment to apartment under the cover of night because they lacked rent money. His mom worked several jobs at a time, stealing home for a few hours to make sure her family wasn't in trouble.

Sometimes they stayed with friends, sometimes with relatives, sleeping six or seven to a room in bad neighborhoods, drug deals going on down the street. Always, though, someone was there to offer a helping hand.

Henry and older brother Angel emulated the pro wrestlers they saw on TV and the Mexican boxers they revered, and they entered a youth wrestling program in Phoenix. Angel was the first ace, winning four high school state titles, and Henry did the same.

Neither liked studying, so when Angel was invited to the Olympic training center, Henry tagged along and won his last two state titles while living there. Within a year, younger brother was the rising star.

But winning an Olympics so soon, with so little world-level experience, almost never happens.
Cael Sanderson was the only U.S. freestyle gold medalist in Athens, but he had a long and storied amateur career and was a four-time unbeaten NCAA champion.

Cejudo's first match was a tipoff of what was to come as he defeated Velikov 0-1, 3-2, 4-3, his first victory on the world level.

Cejudo then beat Besarion Gochashvili of Georgia 1-3, 3-2, 3-0, using single-leg takedowns to get the deciding points in each of the final two periods. He again lost the first period in the semifinals, but rallied to beat Namig Sevdimov of Azerbaijan 3-5, 3-2, 4-3, on another single-leg takedown.

Matsunaga helped by pinning Kudukhov in a major upset, and the Japanese wrestler appeared to lose his edge against Cejudo and didn't wrestle nearly as well.

Several of Cejudo's brothers and sisters were there to watch it, including Angel, who, Cejudo said, "Made it tough on me, with a few knuckle sandwiches along the way. But he's the reason I'm here. We won this gold together."

Their mom, Nelly Rico, didn't make the long trip but, Henry said, will get the gold medal that he planned to sleep with Tuesday night.

"I'm not letting go of this," he said, holding it up proudly. "It's beautiful."

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His story produced the 125th Olympic wrestling medal for the United States and its 50th gold. Only swimming and track and field, with far more events, have produced more American golds.

"I'm proud of my Mexican heritage," Cejudo said. "But I'm an American. It's the best country in the world. They call it the land of opportunity, and it is. Maybe if some other kid watches this, he can do the same."

Edited by Chicano, August 21, 2008 - 01:24 PM.

#2 daco_inc



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Posted August 29, 2008 - 10:57 AM

Awesome story. it brought a tear to my eye.

#3 Guest_Chicano_*


Posted August 29, 2008 - 02:38 PM

^ You shoulda' seen his appearance recently on Leno. It was pretty touching too in one particular instance, where he brought his Mom out & saw her for the first time since before the olympics since she wasn't able to go because she had to take care of all the kids.

The guy is pretty funny too though, told a few funny stories & in general, showed a great sense of humor. Very humble young man, good to see.

#4 lakerfool


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Posted August 29, 2008 - 11:01 PM

Nice story. Wrestling is one of the real sports in the Olympics. Too bad they show table tennis or volleyball over this.
Gooden>> Lamar Odom. Mo Williams>> Ray Allen>> Gasol. Nene= Gasol.

#5 netlord


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Posted September 02, 2008 - 05:19 AM

Nice story. Wrestling is one of the real sports in the Olympics. Too bad they show table tennis or volleyball over this.

I think table tennis is a very serious sport...

#6 Jaime Quintanilla

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Posted September 02, 2008 - 06:52 AM

Beautiful story. He should be invited to Oprah.

#7 Guest_Chicano_*


Posted September 02, 2008 - 02:05 PM

^ Definitely.


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