Even if we lived in a world where we had to jump through a ring of fire every time we wanted to change the channel, marathon runners would still make us look lazy — and at the same time much more sane.
Think about it. Marathoners run 26.2 miles, while at any second, their bodies could “hit the wall.”
Look to 1996, when Uta Pippig famously won the Boston Marathon for the third consecutive year, this time, with her own diarrhea and menstrual blood dripping down her leg as she crossed the finish line. Marathoners train too hard to pull themselves from a race, especially if they think they can still win or set a personal best.
Ohio University Zanesville professor Kitty Consolo has won more than 400 races ranging from the mile to two RevCo Cleveland Marathons despite suffering from severe asthma and multiple allergies. In 1985, she said she was in fantastic shape but developed a sharp pain in her right side. It turned out to be a grapefruit size ovarian cyst, and she had to have major surgery to remove it.
“(It was) kind of like having a C-Section without the baby,” she said. “I was told not to drive or work for 8 weeks and wait even longer to run. The next day, I jogged 15 minutes in the hospital parking lot and did not need morphine.”
She said she went home in three days instead of seven and went back to driving and teaching the next week. Four weeks later, she flew to Barbados and won a 10km. Three weeks later she ran the Cleveland marathon and won for the second time.
Craig Leon, a former Ohio University runner and coach, is now a professional marathoner having finished 26th at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Relatively new to the sport of marathon running Craig still marvels at how he is able to complete such a grueling task.
“It’s (finishing a marathon) hard to even describe,” he said. “It’s such a surreal feeling. Even at any point in my training, I never go out and run 26.2 miles. My biggest workout is a 30K, so you’re thinking to yourself, I’ve got to run X number of miles more and do it at a faster pace when I get to the race. I’d be lying if I did not say it doesn’t scare the crap out of me.”
That feeling eases with experience but always looms before a race, he said.
“Each one I feel more comfortable, but I’m always nervous because you never know what can go wrong in such a long race.” Leon said. “On any given day you can really pop, but at the same time, even if everything is going well up until the race, you can wake up with a sinus infection or get a blister on mile 15 and you’re done. It’s really a cruel race.”
It’s not just the race that is spoiled by something as petty as a cold or a blister. It is the months of training and sacrifice. Leon runs twice a day every day whether the middle of summer or Christmas day. Still in his 20s, Leon wishes he could cut loose more.
“I’m at the point of my life where I’d love to go out with my friends and live it up, but as a runner you’re so reliant on your body you can not abuse it, like say a golfer,” he said.
Consolo is now making her return to running as an Elite Masters Runner. She trains 37 hours a week including physical therapy. She has also written for Runner’s World and other magazines. She said she thinks patience is important to distance running and holds most of America back from competing with the rest of the world.
“One has to be able to focus for long periods of time and be patient,” she said. “Many today want a quick fix. Marathon excellence takes years of persistence to develop, and maybe that is why countries like Ethiopia and other African nations excel.”
Leon also said he thinks patience is the greatest skill a runner can have.
“You won’t see a return on investment tomorrow,” he said. “It will be months, years.”
In spite of all these sacrifices, the reward is not winning. There are not enough major marathon victories to go around. The competition fuels them, but the places they see and the people they meet make it sweeter.
“Runners go through these struggles together, even though we compete against each other,” he said. “We’re friends outside of the races and were constantly traveling to places that are nice enough for a marathon to be run there.”
As he made his way through the scenic town of Eugene, Oregon and up through the gates at famous Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, Craig Leon had to marvel at what he just accomplished.
“It was a weird feeling,” he said. “At no point during training did I think I was going to win that race, I just wanted to finish.”
Not only had Craig Leon just completed his first marathon, he had completed his first marathon in first place, and was just four minutes off U.S. Olympic trial qualifying pace.
Craig Leon is not the first athlete in the family to go to Ohio University. Bob Leon was a four-year letterman basketball player from 1975-1978. Craig grew up playing basketball, and it was his first love. Basketball is a winter sport though, and his mother, Marilyn, also a Bobcat, wanted Craig to be involved with something in the fall.
“They didn’t have a golf program at the junior high level, or I would have done that,” he said. “So my mom said why don’t you give this cross country thing a try, I think you’ll like it.”
Leon believes he would not have lasted long as a junior high cross country runner if it wasn’t for how the first practice played out.
“The very first day of practice we started at this park and then we ran two miles to Dairy Queen and we had ice cream, I thought we were going to do that every day. We never went again,” Leon said.
When Leon got to high school, he was an above-average runner, continually placing in the top 5 on a talented Van Wert High School cross country team. His junior season, he joined the track team which helped him to shave off a full minute from his personal best in the 5k and he placed 11th in the Ohio State High School Championships in both cross country and track.
Leon as a late bloomer, had limited scholarship offers, but he always knew he’d be an Ohio Bobcat. He walked on, joining Ohio’s cross country team. He was raw, but he improved as he made the rolling hills of Athens his newest friend. By the time Craig’s career was over, he was the team’s top runner, a MAC Cross Country runner-up and an individual qualifier to the NCAA championships. His biggest accomplishments lay in front of him, however.
Leon graduated in the fall of ’07 with a degree in education, but he decided to stick around Athens in order to pursue a master’s
degree in athletic administration in the College of Health and Human Services, as well as help out coaching OU track.
Leon also applied for and won an internship at the 2008 U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon thanks in large part to OU alumnus Mike Young, a sport scientist with USA Track & Field. Leon’s responsibility was to film all the action at Hayward Field, so the athletes and their coaches could go back and study their mechanics frame by frame.
Leon was in a lame-duck phase in his running career at the time. He was still running but not training for anything. He was at the point in his life where he had to decide if he was going to run professionally. The internship helped him make a decision that would shape the course of his life.
“Being out there re-energized me,” he said. “It was the turning point. It made me decide I wanted to do this. Had I not done this (taken the internship) I do not think I would still be running.”
Leon met the athletes he idolized on this field. Just two years later, coincidentally, he would be a champion on this same field and would call these athletes some of his best friends.
Still the Boy Who Wanted Dairy Queen
To pursue his dream, Leon didn’t have to watch his diet.
“I’m like a garbage disposal,” he said. “Actually travel portions aren’t big enough for me and I’m not going to pay for two dinners. There are some runners that literally count the number of calories they eat, I tell people I’m on a see-food diet, I see food, I eat it.”
While he does not sacrifice on food, he sacrifices a lot socially.
“I’m at the point of my life where I’d love to go out with my friends and live it up,” Leon said. “As a runner you’re so reliant on your body, you can’t really abuse it, like say a golfer.”
The sacrifices are ultimately worth it.
“I have traveled to 40 of the 50 states in the last 8 months,” said Leon, who answered this question in the heart of Piccadilly Circus in London.”It’s a pretty sweet gig.”
When Leon arrived at Ohio University, he had never run for 60 straight minutes in his life. He had a successful collegiate career running times between 23 and 27 minutes. As a pro, however, he decided to focus on the marathon.
“Ultimately, the marathon is where I’m going to have my most success,” he said. “There are about 5 or 6 guys who have separated themselves, but then the difference between 8 and 40 isn’t much. If we were going to run a 5k on that track I wouldn’t even be in that top 40.”
Leon is admittedly not a world-class sprinter, but he makes up for it by honing the skills that the best marathons need to be elite, skills that have little to do with your athleticism. The key skill is patience, he said.
“Patience in training (because) you won’t see return on investment tomorrow. It will be months, years. Patience even in the race (because) it’s a 26 mile race. If you get too excited, too early, you can really get yourself in trouble the last three or four miles. There is a certain blue-collar toughness, running twice a day, running twice a day on Christmas, running twice a day on Thanksgiving, I also think there is this element of confidence, a belief that you can push your body farther than maybe it would go. I don’t think we were put on this Earth to run as hard as we can for 26 miles. I feel awful for 10 days after it. It hurts to walk.”
Growing up playing basketball, Leon understood that the only way you get better at running is through practice. Now, he mixes speed and strength training into his regimen, but at the end of the day there is only one way to improve as a runner.
“When you go to the gym to play basketball and you work on your dribbling, shooting, different drills,” he said. “With running, you go running. There is not another way to become a better runner than to go running, so you have to find a way to make it fun.”
Most people cannot wrap their heads around running for fun. Leon somehow makes a career off of it. Competing and goal setting are the only ways to enjoy it.
“You’re going to have days where it’s not fun, but every once in awhile you get these runs that just bring you back, whether it be a nice day or if it’s a crappy day and you make it through it and it’s not that bad,” he said. “The thing for me with running is, this is what my next big goal is and knowing that every little thing I do from now until that time whether it be a month, three months, six months, a year, working toward that goal and makes it so much more meaningful and fun for me.”
Minnesota and the Olympic Trials
After Leon realized he was just four minutes away from qualifying for the Olympic trials, he set that as his next goal. He attempted to do that at the 2010 USA Marathon Championships, held in Minneapolis. To accomplish that goal, Leon needed to run under 2:19:00 or finish in the top 10.
“At mile 25, I was in 10th place and I knew no one was catching me and that I was way ahead of the time I needed,” he said. “For a mile I got to truly soak in what I did. It’s very rare in any sport where can you soak in what you have just accomplished and all the work you put in as you’re doing it.”
Next up for Leon was the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials in Houston, Texas, where he finished 26 of 121 racers, 26 of which did not finish. Leon ran a time of 2:15:42, almost three full minutes faster than his time in Minneapolis. Oddly enough, that same time would have placed him 22 at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
When just three men can qualify to run the marathon each Olympics, and the Olympics come around just once every four years, Leon has to wonder what will define his career.
“If I stopped running today, and asked myself from where I started would I ever accomplish this much I’d say no, but I know I can do so much more,” he said. “There are certain things I think about that are top things. I want to have top-10 finishes in the major marathons. I’m doing Chicago in the fall or the Boston marathon or the NYC marathon and the US championships. And at the end of the day, I don’t know how I will quantify, but those are the races that are important to me. And if I can continue to do well with that, and I like to think I can continually improve, and as long as I see that improvement over the last few years, then I’ll say hey you did it right, and you had fun.”
LONDON – Six members of the USA Women’s basketball teamand the team’s coach all have a connection to the University of Connecticut, and this team bonding is a key factor in a team’s success, they said.
Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Asjha Jones, and Diana Taurasi all won a national championship together in 2002 with the Huskies and Maya Moore and Tina Charles added rings of their own in 2009 and 2010. These three championships are all a part of head coach Geno Auriemma’s seven total national titles.
“I think it helps that six of us went to UCONN and we’re familiar and comfortable,” Bird said.
Running a lot of the same sets that they did at school helps the women learn the playbook.
“UCONN kind of has its own philosophy about a lot of plays and a lot of things are similar from when I was in school. You don’t really remember the plays so much but you remember the concepts,” said Asjha Jones, one of Bird’s teammates.
Bird says that the women who played at UCONN have a close bond.
“Anybody will tell you, some of the friendships you form and the people you meet and the bonds you make in college kind of last a lifetime and for me,” she said. “I’ve played with three of the other women on this team and it’s definitely there.”
When the former Huskies are happy to play with one another once again, the team as a whole has a tight bond.
“It’s like old times reminiscing, but we’re also really close to the other players too,” said Jones.
After Freddie Evans was embarrassed at the hands of Serik Sapiyev by a score of 17-9, in the Welterweight Final at the Excel Center on Aug. 12, it looked as though the British faithful were going to go home disappointed.
“He just beat the piss out of Freddie,” Adrian Downing said of Sapiyev as the Gold medalist made his victory lap around the ring.
“You’d think with how loud this place was for him (Freddie), he could have at least put on some kind of a show,” Downing’s brother Tom added.
Downtrodden, the British faithful had almost forgotten the mountain of a man who was fighting in the last match of the night, the Super Heavyweight final.
Standing 6′ 6″ with biceps that look as if they had been sculpted by the Italian sculptor Michaelangelo is Anthony Joshua. In his way was athe defending Olympic champion and two-time world champion Robert Cammarelle.
Early on, Cammarelle showed everything that made him a heavy favorite. Dipping and ducking, while throwing occasional jabs Cammarelle dominated despite Joshua’s huge size advantage. Joshua looked clumsy and oafish as Camarelle went up 13-10 after 2 rounds.
The final round started with much of the same, before Joshua went into desperation mode as the crowd willed him on with chants of “Joshua! Joshua! Joshua!” Despite the dominating round, nearly everyone in the arena — including the Italian coach who began celebrating and pumping up the crowd during deliberation, thought Cammarelle had won.
Shockingly, the judges made their decision as an 18-18 split decision to much murmuring from the crowd. That murmur became an absolute roar when three judges awarded the match to Joshua.
Lennox Lewis, Britain’s greatest Super heavyweight attended the match as did current World Heavyweight Champion Wladimir Klitschko.
British boxing fan Tony Williams could not help but look at Joshua’s victory as a passing of the torch.
“With Lennox here, and the Ukranian here, it’s big. When Joshua turns pro, he’s going to make us proud,” Williams said.
From small town aspirations, to international success. That has been the formula for Grenada national swimming coach Hollie Bonewit-Cron.
The 34-year old Ohio University graduate and Athens native coached Esau Simpson to a Grenadian best time in the 100-meter freestyle at the Games. Simpson finished first in his heat, but failed to advance in the competition.
“I am taking with me the memory of Esau’s preparation for the Games and his specific race,” said Bonewit-Cron. “It was so great to watch him win his heat in the morning and achieve a personal best time, new Grenadian National Record, as well as a new Grenadian Olympic Record.”
Bonewit-Cron was named the Grenada swimming coach after Simpson asked her to coach him in the Olympics. Bonewit-Cron coaches Simpson at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, where she is the head coach.
Even after being part of the biggest sporting event in the world, Bonewit-Cron is grateful for her hometown.
“I have often thought about my experience with growing up in Athens and feel that I am grateful for being part of such a great community,” said Bonewit-Cron. “But also having the initiative to achieve my goals, all of which I learned from growing up in a smaller town like Athens.”
Bonewit-Cron began swimming at the age of six after watching her brother compete. Bonewit-Cron was a three-time All-Mid-American Conference first team selection during her four years at Ohio University. She was a 17-time MAC Champion and during her junior season, was named the MAC swimmer of the year.
Following her time in Athens, she became the assistant coach at the University of Florida, before starting the program at Nova Southeastern.
“I could relate to athletes and learned to coach through my mentor,” she said. “I decided that I wanted to continue down the coaching road during my first year at Florida.”
Bonewit-Cron said she will always remember taking part in the Opening ceremony.
“I am so grateful to Grenada for selecting me to walk in the opening ceremonies,” she said. “The electric atmosphere as we walked out of the tunnel and into the stadium is indescribable.”
The Athens High School grad also said she thinks this will not be the peak to her career and wants the opportunity to coach at the Olympics in 2016 in Rio De Janeiro.
“If Grenada allows me the opportunity to coach for them in 2016 in Rio, I will definitely be there,” she said. “They are such a great country that welcomed me with open arms as an American.”
Bonewit-Cron plans to return to Athens and Ohio University this fall, when she will be inducted into the Ohio University Athletic Hall of Fame during Homecoming weekend in October.
The bell sounded the end of the third round and both fighters took to their corners. The audience was noticeably nervous to hear the judges announce the final result, but still bellowed with the support of a home crowd.
“And the winner, with a judges score of 14-11, is Luke Campbell of Great Britain!”
The crowd erupted in elation. Campbell threw his arms in the air, returning the crowd’s love. His job was complete; he knew he had made his country proud.
This was the scene last Saturday at Excel Arena, where Campbell became one of Great Britain’s 29 gold medalists. In a Summer Olympics where hosting the games seemed exciting enough for many supporters of Team GB, they have managed to have their most successful Olympics in history.
“Really quite nothing like it in recent memory. Not football, not the Tour (de France); this has got to be the greatest moment in Britain’s athletic history,” said Oliver Perkins, of London, who had just returned from watching some of the Olympic events with his mates.
After winning the Tour de France in mid July, Bradley Wiggins, affectionately known as “Wiggo,” kicked off the games by winning gold in the cycling time trial. While supporters of Team GB were ecstatic with Wiggo’s gold, they had no idea of the dominance the game’s host country would display during the rest of the Olympics.
“I never thought it would go this well for Team GB, but I must say it is brilliant we’re doing so well,” said Tom Bellack, a gamesmaker. “It really has added to the all-around success of the games.”
Jessica Ennis won gold in the heptathlon, Zara Phillips (granddaughter of the Queen of England) won silver in equestrian, and then Team GB’s dominance of the Velodrome began. Winning 7 gold medals in just 10 events in the Velodrome, the results had other countries in bewilderment of how strong the British performances were. Isabella Gautheron, France’s cycling chief, even went as far to suggest they were using dirty tactics and “magic” wheels.
“They hide their wheels a lot. The ones for the bikes they race on are put in wheel covers at the finish,” said Gautheron to French newspaper L’Equipe.
While some countries have questioned how they are doing it, Great Britain’s overall success cannot be denied. Team GB finished third in the final medal count, amassing 29 gold medals and 65 medals overall, making this statistically the greatest Olympics in their history. Team GB finished fourth in medal count at the Beijing Olympics, but that has not compared to the national pride felt from winning in these 2012 games, according to David Ackley, a fan of Great Britain and the Olympics. Being the host of the games as well as one of the top medal winners has support of Team GB at an all-time high.
“Having them do so well has really sparked Londoners interest in the games,” Ackley said. “I’ve never seen the city bursting with so much pride for our athletes.”
While larger countries like America and China dominated the overall medal count, Great Britain’s success has made the people of the UK proud, Ackley said.
“Hosting the games and competing like we have, has really made us all proud.”
LONDON – When you’re an Olympic athlete engaging in the biggest moment of your career that you’ve been working towards your entire life, where do you go to let loose? For some American athletes, it is the Team USA house. Thanks to fellow Bobcat, Christa Mann, who is the Communications Coordinator for the United States Olympic Committee, the Scripps London team got the chance to tour the house and see where some of the athletes and their families hangout.
Sheryle Miller, Coordinator of Meeting and Event Services at the house, said that it took seven days to transform the Royal College of Art into the Team USA house. The retreat spot is private and available only for Olympians both past and present (because once an Olympian, always an Olympian), families of the athletes and sponsors and partners of the team.
At the Team USA house, all of these approved people are able to relax, grab a bite to eat and watch some of the Olympic action. Athletes and their company are provided the same catering service that the royal family uses as well as an outdoor Budweiser Deck equipped with comfortable couches and two weatherproof televisions. Any guest is also able to check out a laptop to surf the web or a bicycle to enjoy a stroll through one of London’s royal parks. Team USA house serves as the ideal chill spot for an Olympian trying to relieve some stress.
What better way is there to relax then to go shopping? In the house is the two-story, official Team USA shop. This is the only venue in the United Kingdom where the official team gear is sold. Customers have their choice ranging from $28 Team USA t-shirts to $250 Ralph-Lauren polos to the $450 jackets that the athletes wear during competition. The shop is open to everyone with access to the rest of the house as well as all United States citizens. How much money do the athletes spend in the shop for team gear?
“The athletes get one of everything in the store,” said Peter Zeytoonjian, Managing Director of Consumer Products and Licensing.
LONDON – As the saying goes, there are plenty of fish in the sea. Everyone knows who Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte are, but there are many more American swimmers that most Olympic viewers never hear about. These are citizens, born and raised in the United States, but swimming for another country.
Margaux Farrell, a member of the French Women’s 4x200m relay team, is a unique story. Farrell graduated from Indiana University this past spring where she won three Big Ten swimming titles. Her mother, Slyvie Farrell, is a former swimmer for the French national team that missed qualifying for the Olympics by one one-hundredth of a second. In the 2012 Summer Olympics, Farrell swam a leg in the semifinal race for the 4x200m women’s relay, in which later that night her team won the bronze medal. From living in the Olympic Village to swimming in the pool, Farrell talked about her Olympic experience and her bond with her mother.
Colin Brown: What is it like to be an American student swimming for an international team?
Margaux Farrell: It’s fine. A lot of swimmers go to school in thE US, so there are many foreigners that I recognize from NCAA meets. I’m fluent in French though and have spent a lot of time in France so I feel just as much French as I do American.
CB: Do you live with the French team in the village?
CB: Are you friends with some of the American athletes? If so, do you hangout with them at the games or mainly your French teammates?
MF: Yes I am, but I stayed mainly with the French.
CB: What have you learned from your mom about swimming on a national level?
MF: I’ve learned to cherish the experience more than anything because in the end that is what you’ll remember most.
CB: How close are you and your mom when it comes to swimming?
MF: My mom and I are close when it comes to everything. She’s really my best friend. People always say that we are the same!
CB: What kind of advice or tips does she give you before swimming?
MF: She tells me to relax and that I’m going to be fine and that no matter what she loves me.
CB: I saw that you swam the semifinals for the 4×200 and in the finals the team got bronze, so as a leg of the qualifying team, do you receive a medal?
MF: Yes I did.
CB: I was told that you were initially in the Olympics as an alternate, is that accurate?
MF: No, it’s called that I guess but most major teams bring 6 people so they can put up the most rested relay each time. I was always going to swim though.
CB: Describe the feeling you had when you were told that you were going to be competing for the team. What kind of emotions were you experiencing?
MF: I was excited, but it didn’t fully hit me until I left IU and went to Europe because I had so much other stuff going on like school and graduating so I didn’t focus on my qualification at first.
CB: When you walked in to the natatorium for the 4x200m race, what emotions were you feeling then?
MF: I honestly don’t remember much. I know I was nervous in the days leading up but calm on the day of. I tried to just look at the pool and not up at the stands, it was just another 200 like I had done before and that is what I had to keep telling myself.
CB: Describe any added pressure that you felt that you hadn’t experienced in past races at any point in your life.
MF: Well this was swimming for my country on the biggest stage of athletics so I obviously had to do well but the people I trained with and swam with were supportive and encouraging so I felt ready to do my job for the team.
CB: Competing for your school is a big deal, but what is it like to compete for an entire country?
MF: It’s a lot of pressure. I had a lot of people counting on me and I had a lot at stake so I needed to be focused and determined but it ended up working out just fine. I imagined that moment for years and trained hard for that so I had confidence in what I was going to do and when I dove into the pool I just had to have faith in my training and my abilities to not have any regrets and just go for it!
Nicholas Schwab, an upcoming senior at Indiana University, represented the Dominican Republic as the team’s only male swimmer. Schwab swam in the 200m Freestyle where he won his heat with a time of 1:53.41 and qualified 36th overall in the event. He talked about what an amazing experience he had swimming for the Dominican Republic.
Colin Brown: What’s it like being an American student swimming for another country?
Nicholas Schwab: It’s a wonderful experience. I get the best of both worlds. I am proud to be American, and I am proud to be Dominican.
CB: How did you end up swimming for the Dominican Republic?
NS: Last summer I applied for dual citizenship through my mother. We went to the Dominican Republic and I swam in their national competition. It was great! I decided that I wanted to gain international experience so the best chance for that at this point was to swim for the Dominican Republic.
CB: What were the qualifications like?
NS: I was entered into the games through the universality rules, meaning one guy and one girl given the times are fast enough can be approved to go without FINA A or B cuts. Being the fastest Dominican, and with a 1:53.8 in the 200 free I was able to qualify for the games.
CB: What is it like living in the Olympic Village with all of the other athletes?
NS: Really cool. I’m surrounded by amazing people. I’ve been meeting huge athletes—even WR holders. It’s a great experience, really helping me to grow as an athlete.
CB: Do you live with the DR athletes or fellow American athletes?
NS: I live with some of the Dominican coaches and medical staff.
CB: Do you hangout with a lot of the Americans in the village?
NS: Not really. I have some friends from Suriname, actually; it’s been great to spend time with them.
CB: What is it like to be the only male swimmer for DR?
NS: It’s a pretty special feeling. I am a unique person, it just adds to my personality. It encourages me to represent the country as best I can. Not only am I representing the DR in the games, but I am also representing the entire sport back at home in the DR for all of the athletes there!
CB: What about the female swimmer, Dorian, who is also from the US? Are you both close? Do you have a special bond being the only swimmers?
NS: Dorian is a great girl; she is very, very talented in swimming and will continue to grow in the sport with the years to come. I look forward to seeing her success. We are friends but we live in different states so we don’t see each other very often. She has a great family and we all get along very well!
CB: How does swimming at Indiana help you with the pressures of International swimming?
NS: In all honesty, it seems to be the other way around. The international experience and swimming in the Olympics has really helped my college career out. This exposure to such high levels of competition has helped me put things into perspective, and really have fueled my motivation for college swimming, especially going forward.
Holley Mangold is leaving London with a special sense of pride. The 5’8″ and 350-pound weightlifter from Columbus, Ohio proved many doubters wrong when she competed in the 75+kg division at the 2012 Olympics. Although she finished 10th of 14 competitors, Mangold said she isn’t upset about her finish.
“I am really happy and proud I was able to pull it together,” she said.
Mangold had to fight through a torn tendon and intense pain in her wrist to compete for her country. She had re-injured the wrist two days before her competition, but decided to fight through pain. She lifted 105 kilos in the snatch and 135 in the clean-and-jerk. She was also one of only two U.S. women to compete at the London Olympics in Weightlifting.
Holley has always been involved in a sport. Sometimes even multiple sports at once. At the age of 5, she was the speed rollerskating champion of Ohio.
“I started sports because my parents put (my siblings and myself) into them,” said Mangold. “I think my mom threw me into swimming as soon as I could float.”
Mangold even played football for 12 years, including playing in a Ohio High School State Championship Game. Her brother Nick is an offensive lineman for the New York Jets in the NFL, and Holley credits him as the reason she became interested in football. Although she didn’t necessarily pick the most popular sports among teenage girls, she said her family stood behind her every step of the way.
“My family was super supportive in both football and weightlifting,” she said. “It was great growing up in a sports oriented family. It meant I always had something to do and games to play.”
Her family also fostered some friendly competition among siblings.
“There was a lot of competition, not only in the sports we played, but in everyday activities,” said Mangold. “I believe that helped us always strive to be the best we could be.”
The Holley Mangold story doesn’t end in any athletic arena, though. Mangold had three majors during her time at Ursuline College – theology, sociology and philosophy – as well as a 3.8 grade point average. She had to learn to balance a heavy school load as well as the sports she loved.
“I fell in love with school,” says Mangold. “I wanted to learn as much as I could about the subjects that I was interested in. I became really good at school for the first time in my life. The more I did, the easier it became to balance.”
The 22-year old’s story of how she got into weightlifting only goes back a few years. When she was 18, she decided to change to weightlifting after finding her coach, Mark Cannella.
When looking back on her experience of competing at the Olympics and representing her country, Mangold is at a rare loss for words.
“It was an unforgettable experience,” said Mangold. “It is indescribable how proud and honored I felt.”
Holley plans to continue her training and compete in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil in four years at the next Olympic Games.
Before we left on this trip, everyone in my hometown fawned over me. They could not believe this opportunity I had earned, and they were congratulating me on great things before I had even so much as started packing. To my credit, I told them all the same thing, this trip is a vacation unless I make the best of it.
I think I failed.
Making the best, does not mean doing everything you want to do and then some. To me, making the best is taken what you are given no matter how small or insignificant that opportunity may be. I had pipe dreams, and they never materialized, and all I had left was day dreams.
True I was given little. Actually, a classmate and I were given the least, but I still could have done more. It would not have been easy or convenient, and truthfully it’s easier and probably fair to blame others for my misfortune, but where will that get me?
Better to focus on the positives, I saw a beautiful city, had some once in a lifetime opportunities and met some of my best friends. Maybe I did not achieve any of my professional goals, and I will tell that first to anyone that asks me how London was, but I will quickly tell them of all the fun I had here and to not think for a second I regret anything about coming. And in that regard, I ended up making the best of this trip.