Let the games begin! The 2012 Summer Olympic Games are up and running, and if you're like us, you are tuning in to see who will be this year's big winners. Go Team USA! With all this Olympic fever, we thought it would be fun to introduce you to an Olympic Gold-Medalist that was born and raised right here in Amarillo, Texas. Brandon Slay won the Gold Medal in Freestyle Wrestling in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. We had a great interview with Brandon, and here's the Funspired scoop:
Journey to the Olympics
Brandon started wrestling when he was 6 years old at the YMCA Boys Club in Amarillo. Believe it or not, his first year of wrestling, his record was 0-20. But, he enjoyed the friends he made, so he kept coming back. When he was 8 years old, he remembers watching the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and that's when he decided that, some day, he wanted to win an Olympic Gold Medal in wrestling. And so his big dream began. Over the years, he wrestled at the Maverick Club, Sam Houston Middle School, Tascosa High School, and the University of Pennsylvania (he chose UPenn because it was a great balance of academics and athletics). After graduating in 1998, Brandon moved to Colorado Springs where he trained at the Olympic Training Center until the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
His Olympic Experience
Brandon competed in five matches at the Olympics, the most exciting being his defeat of Russian wrestler Bouvaisa Saitiev. Bouvaisa was chosen to win the Gold Medal that year - he had been undefeated for 6 years and had won the Gold Medal at the previous Olympics in 1996 (and he actually went on to win Gold Medals in 2004 and 2008). Click here to watch this amazing match.
In the finals, Brandon's opponent was German Alexander Leipold . The match didn't go very well; Brandon was given multiple cautions (which was unusual) on moves/holds he had done many times before, and the German was given 3 "free" points. Brandon tried one last maneuver to win, desperate at this point, but he was unsuccessful, so the German won. Brandon was disappointed to receive the Silver Medal at the awards ceremony, but as he left the arena, he was greeted by loved ones and he realized that his faith, family and friends were much more important than any Gold Medal.
The Gold Medal
Two weeks after his return, he received a call from the International Olympic Committee, and they told him that the German had tested positive for steroids, so the Gold Medal now belonged to Brandon. He and his family flew to New York City for an official awards ceremony on NBC's Today Show. The Silver and Bronze medalists also flew in for the ceremony. Brandon finally had his gold medal - and what a story to tell!
His New World View
After reaching the pinnacle of his sport, Brandon's view of the world changed. Things that had once seemed important, no longer did. He wanted to use the platform that God had given him to teach others. He made a goal to share his story at all 78 schools in Amarillo (and he came pretty close by speaking at 72 of them). He shared his journey, his faith, and the lessons he learned along the way, namely that life isn't just about winning the Gold Medal.
Where He is Now
Brandon lives in Colorado Springs with his wife of 3 years. They have a 15-month-old daughter, Sydney Slay, who is named after the city where his big dream came true, a city that he came to love during his Olympic visit. Brandon is currently the Head Wrestling Coach at the US Olympic Training Center. He travelled to London yesterday as one of the Team USA Wrestling coaches. Brandon is looking forward to being back to the Olympics, but this time as a coach! Follow Brandon on Twitter (@CoachSlay) to get his Olympic updates.
His Olympic Outlook
Brandon says to watch out for Tervel Dlagnev, Team USA's Heavyweight (120kg) competitor. He is from Arlington, TX and is only the third Texan to make the US Olympic Wrestling Team (the other two were Brandon and female wrestler Randi Miller who won the Bronze Medal in 2008). The coolest part? Coach Henry Harmony coached both Brandon and Tervel early in their wrestling careers: Brandon, at Amarillo's Maverick Club and Tervel at Arlington High School. Click here to see an NBC feature on Tervel.
His Amarillo Favorites
Brandon comes back to Amarillo quite often to visit his close friends and family. He loves to go to Lone Star Bar & Grill to get a big steak with his dad. He also likes to stop by Roaster's, Taco Villa, and Doug's BBQ.
"Do your best and let God take care of the rest!" He says, "If we are obedient and doing the natural, God will do the super if it's according to His Will."
Be sure to check out Brandon's great website here.
Thank you to Brandon for taking the time to share his amazing story with the Funspired gang!
Your fun friends,
Susan and Farrar