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Burroughs looks forward to 2016 Olympics … and more
By Mike Finn
When the International Olympic Committee voted in 2013 to keep wrestling alive beyond the 2016 Olympics in Rio, no wrestler was happier than Jordan Burroughs.
“It’s been a real interesting journey for wrestling,” said Burroughs, who hopes to eventually qualify for the 2016 Games and to win a second straight Olympic gold medal in August of 2016. “The rules have changed drastically. The rules I’ll wrestle with in Rio will be very different than what I wrestled with in London. They don’t necessarily change the outcome of the event but we and fans know more what is going down.”
And that’s why Burroughs was happy to be selected by the United States Olympic Committee to be part of a teleconference today (July 30) — with World champion women’s gymnast Simone Biles and Alan Ashley, USOC chief of sport performance — to remind fans that the 2016 Games are a year away.
“Wrestlers don’t get a ton of recognition at the Olympics so being considered one of the best athletes in the world, walking side-by-side with Simone, LeBron James and Kevin Durant and some of these amazing athletes and being considered one of their equals is pretty amazing,” added Burroughs, who hopes to go after another gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“I feel like I’m still young but I’m 27 and there’s a lot that can change in life,” said Burroughs, who with his wife Lauren, became parents to a son, Beacon, a year ago. “My wife is from New York and I’m from New Jersey and now we live in Lincoln, Neb. We’ve made a sacrifice by being away from our families. You want to be close to family but you know you have to be in the gym many hours in the day.
“Some days, you feel, ‘I wish I was normal’ and didn’t have to go to the gym, and would rather eat a cheeseburger and drink a milkshake. But when you can be on the top step of the podium and be heralded by your country and hang the flag above your shoulders, that’s what everyone is looking forward to.
“Once you have that feeling of being on the top step and having the gold medal placed around your neck like what happened in London, I said I have to get back and I have to do it in Rio. And I know if that happens in Rio, I will be thinking about 2020.
“As I get older, I’m able to give it all I got and go as long as I can. When I step away from the sport, I want to know that I have nothing left and that I’ve maximized everything I have been blessed with.”
The teleconference also reminded wrestling fans that the 2015 World Championships are a month away in Las Vegas (Sept. 7-12), when Burroughs also hopes to claim a third World championship.
“The challenge now is to be the better man and I’ve done everything to put myself in the best position to be a World champion,” said Burroughs, who also claimed World titles in 2011 and 2013. “I’ve already done it and I look forward to doing it this year.”
Burroughs also believes a strong Worlds performance will help promote the sport in time for Rio.
“This year’s World Championships are huge,” said Burroughs. “After the threat to the sport (by the IOC, which first voted to drop wrestling past 2016), we had to make a ton of improvements, especially making the rules more understandable for the non-traditional wrestling fan.
“That’s really changed the dynamic of the sport. We understand that we will be put more out to the public in 2016. Anytime we can get recognition, we’d like for it to be positive and the more we are excited about it.”
Burroughs hopes the IOC will eventually feature all 24 weight classes — eight in each style: men’s freestyle, Greco-Roman and women’s freestyle — in future Olympics. In 2016, only six of the weight classes per style will be featured.
“It’s very interesting in the way weight classes are distributed,” said Burroughs. “The smallest weight class in 125 pounds and the heaviest is 275 and there are only four weight classes in between there. That means there is no wiggle room. I wrestle at 163 pounds and the next weight class above me is 189 pounds and the weight class below me is 143 pounds.
“We have a lot of guys who are ‘tweeners’ and are trying to find a way to fit in. In order for us to get more (weights) in the Olympic Games and become one of the core sports, we had to make changes. Right now, I think it makes the sport more competitive with so many wrestlers in the same weight class. It makes things interesting when you have so many national champions competing for just one spot at each weight class. It creates excitement and a little bit of a buzz.”