Randy York's N-Sider
Two Nebraska 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 of Nebraska.
No one really made a point of it, but both Nebraska alumni have cemented their places in Husker history with superlative Olympic performances.
Burroughs’ gold 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 in 2000.
Husker track 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.
Burroughs 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
“It’s 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 sophomore.”
Manning 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.
Time 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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