Posts Tagged ‘American Dream’

The best Olymiad story (that you haven’t heard)

August 26, 2008


On a side note, what is the deal with the word Olympiad? Why don’t they just call it the Olympics? Someone should tell NBC that they used the word incorrectly. Whatever you call it, this is the best story that you haven’t heard from the Olympics. Unless of course your uncle told it to you at a party this weekend, and you subsequently went on to google the story and noticed that there are many stories about the kid (including 2 identical ones in the LA Times). Regardless, I am going to tell you the tale of Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo…

Where it starts, in 1987 two illegal immigrants found their way to California and made a baby. One of these people decided to steal, take, and deal drugs. This landed him in prison, and ended his life before speaking with his aforementioned son over the last 15 years of his life. The other person decided to work her a$$ off and make a life for her four children. Yes, this life consisted of sleeping 4 boys to a bunk bed, but it was a life nonetheless. Nelly Rico moved her children away from her drug swindling father, from apartment to apartment, room to room, and with no money. They traversed California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado Springs.

The kids hardly had a house, hardly had a bed, and hardly had food, but their mother hardly didn’t work. Any job she could get her hands on, she would do. When she was able to scrounge a little extra, Nelly gave it to those less fortunate. Economically speaking, there weren’t many, but that didn’t matter. Nelly knew how to work hard, and so did her boys.

That work ethic drove Henry into a gym to practice wrestling. The boy had no equipment, no soccer mom to take him to and from, and no snacks from the “team mom”. Henry wrestled in jeans and barefoot. Wrestling wasn’t meant for jeans, but that didn’t matter. The kid worked hard, and he was a prodigy. He liked wrestling, but hated church. That didn’t sit well with his mother. She put the fear of God in the boy’s eyes. The only thing scarier than the wrath of God is a punishment from a mother.

What the school of hard knocks taught Henry was how to fight. Three brothers didn’t hurt either, at least not psychologically. Physically it hurt like hell. Henry won 4 state titles, in two different states, and was the youngest person ever to win a national championship. The first time he ever slept in his own bed was when he got to the Olympic training compound in Colorado Springs. Now all he had to do was win gold, and that is exactly what he did.

Henry won the gold in the 55 kg weight class, we have no idea how many pounds that is (around 120). He had to cut 10 pounds the day before the competition to do it, we have no idea how many kgs that is. Henry was the 31st ranked wrestler in the world at 122 lbs. 31 is a long way from 1. He also had to come from behind every match to do it, but that is just the way Henry likes it. He was like a fish out of water in Bejing, but his cheering section made him feel at home. They were so rowdy they almost got booted by the communist dictatorship. The only thing missing was mother Nelly. She didn’t make the trip because she gets so sick during his matches, or she had passport problems, or she hates flying, either way, it doesn’t matter. She wasn’t there in person, but she was more than there in spirit. Nelly had been relegated to listening to his matches on the radio, and having one of her sons translate the action. None of that mattered as Henry. He finally found home in Bejing when he laid out on the mat exhausted, draped in his native flag, and crying after achieving everything that he has ever fought for. When informed about his $60K bonus for winning he exclaimed, “I’m Rich.”

The Olympics were great. Debating about Michael Phelps is fun , by the way he is, sure Usain Bolt is flashy and interesting, Team USA reedeming, but stories like Henry are what need to be remembered. The hard working son of illegal immigrants goes on to make Olympic history. Now that is rich.