Jordan Burroughs at the 2016 Olympic Games (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Jordan Burroughs, 2012 Olympic gold medalist, has written a letter to the sport that has been the focus of his life for nearly a quarter-century which some may consider a retirement letter.
Burroughs' letter titled "Dear Wrestling" was posted at his JordanBurroughs.com blog Tuesday.
"Let me start by saying that I love you, still," is how the man whose Twitter ID is @allIseeisgold opens his letter to wrestling. "Although our most recent encounter could be described as anything but pleasant, I couldn't imagine my life without you. As you probably already know, these last few weeks have been difficult for me. You have a way of humbling even the most confident men. I thought I had come close to perfecting you, but here I stand corrected. Until August 19, my best had always been enough, and then all of a sudden it wasn't. That's the nature of sports. Someone once told me that the reaction associated with a loss is tangible to how much you've invested into attaining whatever you failed to gain."
Burroughs then mentions his two losses in one day at the 2016 Rio Olympics six weeks ago which denied him a second Olympic gold medal… then continues:
"I feared it...it happened...and now I face it. But Wrestling, please don't let my pain stay too long. I've got a family, friends and fans that needs me back. I'm sitting down at my computer to write to you. I'm spilling everything that I need to say to you into this keyboard, in hopes of capturing these feelings, bottling them up and leaving them within the contents of this letter."
The two-time NCAA champ for the University of Nebraska compares and contrasts his two journeys home from his Olympic experiences. After winning gold in London in 2012, Burroughs recalls, "I was flown directly from the UK to Los Angeles to make an appearance on the Jay Leno Show. There were first pitches and parades, and a gold medal that the entire world wanted to get their hands on. Not this time." Burroughs' after-Rio odyssey involved three flights and nearly 20 hours in the air… only to arrive in Lincoln, Neb. in solitude to a quiet airport like any other traveler coming to Nebraska for business or to visit relatives. No fans. No fanfare.
Burroughs then writes about his long relationship with the sport, and all that it has done for him -- beyond a gold medal and product endorsements and fame -- to help him find purpose, to make friends.
"This was always a mutually-beneficial relationship, until now," Burroughs continues. "Carrying us this far has wore me down. 'Heavy is the head that wears the crown,' they say. And you snatched my crown without my permission. You took years to turn me into a superhero, and then just at the peak of my powers you took six minutes to make me human again."
Burroughs concludes his Dear Wrestling letter thusly:
"So as I consider our relationship, Wrestling, I'm finding solace in being who I am without my singlet. I'm waking up early not to rush to practice, but to make breakfast for my family. I'm driving my car past the wrestling room to take my son to gymnastics class. I just need some time to heal. I hope you understand. It's not you. It's me. I need a fresh perspective, and if I hurry back to you I'll be sacrificing this opportunity to grow. When you stop seeing gold, you gain the clarity to see life's true treasures. Maybe I'll see ya around. Maybe."
Since that late August day in Rio de Janeiro when his dream of that second Olympic gold medal was dashed, Jordan Burroughs has been confronted with conflicting emotions.
"It's a tough day. I had a lot of expectations coming here. I wanted to win. I knew I was capable of winning. Sometimes things don't go according to plan," Burroughs said immediately after being denied another Olympic championship. "I had a lot of expectations coming in here. I wanted to win. I knew I was capable of winning. Sometimes things don't go according to plan. I am a man of faith. Something good will come out of this. It is difficult. I lost a lot of things today. But my integrity and my character remain. I am hoping I can go back, re-evaluate my career, my abilities and what I did wrong today. I have a lot to work on."
"I love the sport of wrestling because it is a testament of your growth, what you are capable of, what you can do as a man. And as nervous and afraid as I was coming into this tournament, I was equally as confident and prepared. I have always made my goals public. The hard thing about being an Olympian is that your failures are public, too," Burroughs concluded.
By contrast, just one month after the Olympics, the 28-year-old Burroughs experienced the validation and love of his hometown as his prep alma mater, Winslow Township High School in New Jersey, honored him by putting his name on its gym.
"You think about all the hours I spent in this gymnasium where you had a dream but you hadn't accomplished anything," said the honoree during a speech in the newly dedicated Jordan Burroughs Gymnasium. "We truly worked our butts off in hopes of something great, in hopes of accomplishing something good.
"You have all these delusions of grandeur and you watch TV, you spend time on social media and you see these amazing athletes from these wonderful places. You dream that it will be you, but you never believe that it actually will be."
Reading Jordan Burroughs' "Dear Wrestling" letter -- and his comments at among the lowest and highest moments of his life, all in the past few weeks -- one can't help but think of a speech from Russ Hellickson -- long-time coach at Ohio State and himself an Olympic wrestler -- titled "I Am Wrestling! Do Not Weep for Me!"
Here's just one portion:
"I am Wrestling! Do not weep for me!!
"Weep for those who will never experience me.
"Weep for those who will never feel the exhausting pain of my training,
"Weep for those who will never sense the bond of Camaraderie that once established, will never wane or die.
"Weep for those who will never comprehend the demands of my discipline
"And most of all, Weep for those poor souls who will never miss me, because they never knew me."