athletes who have spent years chasing their Olympic dreams hit the pause button
Monday night to bask in the glow of a governor’s proclamation, an athletic
director’s appreciation and their respective coaches’ admiration. Returning to
NU’s Coliseum, the aging home of many of their most priceless collegiate
moments, Jordan Burroughs and Jordan Larson celebrated their day in the
sunshine with smiles and honorary admiralships in the Great Navy of the state
really made a point of it, but both Nebraska alumni have cemented their places
in Husker history with superlative Olympic performances.
medal in freestyle wrestling makes him only the third Husker in history to win
an individual Olympic gold medal for the United States. He joins Nebraska gymnast
Trent Dilmas, who won gold on the
high bar in 1992, and Nebraska graduate Rulon
Gardner, who shocked the world with his gold medal heavyweight wrestling upset
athletes Charlie Greene (1968, 4X100)
and Linetta Wilson (1996, 4X400) won
Olympic gold medals for the Americans on relay teams. Jim Hartung and Scott
Johnson were members of America’s record-setting men’s team gold medal in
the 1984 Olympics, and Husker football walk-on Curt Tomasevicz was part of a four-man bobsled team that won an
Olympic gold in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Larson’s Silver Medal Rare for a Husker
Larson’s silver medal is even rarer for a Nebraska athlete competing for the
United States in the Olympics. Four other Husker athletes have won silver
medals, but none represented the U.S. Two other Husker athletes have won gold medals
but also represented other countries.
Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne, Governor Dave Heineman, wrestling coach Mark Manning and volleyball coach John Cook helped make Monday’s ceremony
memorable for a small contingent of friends of both programs and the media.
gave Osborne a replica of the award he received, and Osborne returned the favor
with a surprise of his own – a world-class hug for an Olympic champion who said
he hasn’t worked out since he walked off the mat in London. He also confessed to eating everything he
wants after years of rigorous self-denial.
Yes, training has
taken a back seat to Burroughs’ non-stop schedule since appearing on the Tonight Show and the Today Show. He’s hit his home-based East
Coast, joining Olympic beach volleyball gold medalist Misty May-Treanor for a
public appearance in Rhode Island, then joined three other gold medalists to
throw out the first pitch of a Friday night Philadelphia Phillies’ game. Last Saturday,
Burroughs was the star of a hometown parade in his honor in Sicklerville, N.J.
The next day, he appeared at a wrestling camp before returning to Lincoln.
Experiencing Tough Times, Life is Easier
definitely different being in demand now that I’m a gold medalist,” Burroughs
said, admitting that he’d “rather be extremely busy and not get any sleep for
winning a gold medal than not be recognized at all. Right now, I’m trying to
embrace and continue to strive and be the best. Nebraska taught me hard work
and discipline. I wasn’t the best growing up, wasn’t even the best when I got
here at Nebraska. It’s easy now, but it wasn’t easy when I was a freshman or a
acknowledged Burroughs’ early collegiate struggles, but remembered fondly what
Jordan’s dad told him in the family kitchen during his last in-home visit. Leroy
Burroughs, Jordan’s dad, told Manning: “Coach, for 18 years, he was ours. Now he’s
yours. Do whatever you have to do to help him reach his potential.”
Larson said the
aftermath of the Olympics is the longest amount of time she’s had in Nebraska
in four years. Dressed in heels for Monday’s ceremony, she dwarfed the governor
and forced him to humor his way out of the obvious disparity in height. Fortunately,
Larson had the presence of mind to duck down as cameras snapped pictures of her
with the governor and a popular Olympic gold medalist.
is precious for two athletes who want to get back into the
competitive grind. Larson will head back to Russia Oct. 2 to rejoin her
professional team. Her first match is eight days later, putting the heat on to finish the house her family is building.
Rio in 2016: Chasing his Dream Again
Burroughs will continue to make public appearances, visit the White House and try to market some wrestling shoes before he returns to Lincoln to train with the Nebraska wrestling team. His
sites are set squarely on the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “I’ve spent so
much time chasing this dream,” he said. “Now that I’ve caught it, I want to
chase it again.”
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