An except from Bill Plaschke's new book on Henry Cejudo
Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke has a new book on the market: "American Victory: Wrestling, Dreams, and a Journey Toward Home" by Henry Cejudo with Bill Plaschke. The book, released on Jan. 5, is about Cejudo, a freestyle wrestler, who won a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He is the youngest American ever to have won an Olympic wrestling gold medal. At the end of the except is a list of local dates for the upcoming book tour.
Breathe. Please. Breathe.
Stop. Breathe. Hurting.
My mind wanders back from my dusty past to my steamy present, ten years and a zillion miles to a boiling room in the middle of the hottest spot on the planet right now, a sauna in the middle of a sauna at the end of August.
It is Beijing, China the summer of 2008, and I’m a U.S. wrestler entered in the Olympics…
I am the only twenty-one-year-old in a sport of guys who are all at least six years older. I’m ranked thirty-first in the world in a sport where only the top handful of guys ever win any medals or championships. I somehow won the Olympic Trials by beating a guy, Stephen Abas, who won a silver medal four years ago in the summer games in Athens. Someone who should be totally out of my league.
But somehow, I’ve made it; I have come to wrestling heaven, where I feel like I don’t have a chance in hell.
Especially not since, at this moment, at noon on an August afternoon in Beijing, in order for me to even compete in my weight division and have a chance at the medal, I have three hours to lose an absurd ten pounds. You heard that right. Three hours, ten pounds. Top that, Oprah.
You know about wrestlers cutting weight? At that moment, I had to not just cut weight, but amputate weight. I was supposed to weight 121.4 pounds, but I had suddenly somehow ballooned to at least 131 pounds. The weigh-in was in three short hours. If it was just one ounce over, my Olympic dream would be lost in lard and I would be too heavy to compete. Three hours, ten pounds. Eat that, Jared.
There are many ways that wrestlers cut weight. Sometimes they starve. Sometimes they spit and spit until they lose a bit of water weight. But when it comes down to the final hours and you still have a bunch of weight to get rid of, there is only one real way to do it, and that’s to sweat. Lose all the water weight out through my pores.
When I awoke that morning, one day before my event, I wasn’t worried about this too much. Sure, I was a young guy who was still growing, which adds weight. And maybe I ballooned a bit on the flight over from the United States, where the big wrestling star sat in coach, in the middle seat. And then there was the chance that even though I ate only fruit and chicken and drank only water while I had been in China, maybe I had eaten too much out of nervousness. Still, I was a little guy and I assumed nothing could screw me now that I was actually here, in China. But then I stepped on the scale in the wrestling room around noon and — damn! I nearly collapsed in fear. My coaches and brother and trainer shook their heads in frustration and confusion. Losing ten pounds in three hours was nearly impossible. Time for the heat. Time for the hurt.
Somebody went into the sauna and turned it on and up to 180 degrees. I stripped down to my boxer briefs and stepped inside. My handlers stepped in beside me carrying bottles of lotion. For the next thirty minutes, they slapped that lotion on my arms and legs—slap, slap, slap—trying to moisturize the perspiration out of me.
Did you know that 65 percent of the body is water? That’s a lot of weight that can be sweated out of a dude. But did you also know that doctors recommend against anyone trying to cut more than five percent of their body weight? I’m sure they would recommend against the amputation that we were about to do.
I was trying to cut nearly 10 percent of my weight all at once. One day before competing in the Olympics. In a sauna in my underwear with my muscles being pounded by a bunch of guys covered in lotion.
My name is Henry Cejudo, and before being reborn as an Olympian, I had to die a slow death in the sauna.
The above excerpt is from "American Victory: Wrestling, Dreams, and a Journey Toward Home" by Henry Cejudo with Bill Plaschke (Celebra Hardcover; Jan. 5, 2010; 978-0451228550)
Local Book Tour Dates
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19
Barnes & Noble (The Grove)
189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90036
7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20
475 S. Lake Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91101
7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21
8852 Washington Blvd.
Pico Rivera, CA 90660