Askren’s day at the Olympics

Former Missouri wrestler Ben Askren parades into the Olympic wrestling venue. Notice the Askren-maniacs in the stands, wearing fright wigs to mimick askren's usually wild hairdo.

Former Missouri wrestler Ben Askren parades into the Olympic wrestling venue. Notice the Askren fans in the stands, wearing fright wigs that mimick Askren's usually wild hairdo. Askren sported a tamer haircut for his first Olympic appearance. Photos by Doug Meigs

I was attending a Chinese acrobat show Tuesday night when I got a text message from Doug Meigs.
“I have two tickets for tomorrow’s wrestling at face value, 100 RMB. You interested?”
I was very interested.
First, Doug is a former student at Missouri who is spending his summer traveling through Asia. We’d met up about two weeks ago in Beijing and the chance to hang out together again was welcomed.
Second, 100 RMB is about $15 American. A good price.
And third, the wrestling was Olympic wrestling – with Missouri legend Ben Askren making his first Olympic appearance.
So I texted back, “YES.”

I am a fumbling texter.

The next morning, I was still sleepy-eyed when Doug called my cell to tell me that he was running late.
“Running late? It’s tonight, right?”
“It starts at 9:30 a.m.,” he said.
“Oh, I said, I thought it was tonight,” I tried to explain. Then I stopped. It was 8:45 a.m. and I was still pulling my clothes on. “I’ll be there.”

I ran downstairs and grabbed a cab, tried to explain as best I could that I wanted to go the the China Agricultural University’s South Gate – where Doug said he’d be waiting for me.
The driver took me to the University, but was this the South Gate?
“Doug,” I said, when I called his cell phone. “I’m here, but I don’t know where ‘here’ is.”

Askren handled the Hungarian wrestler in Round One.

Askren handled the Hungarian wrestler in Round One.

“I’m right behind you. I see you,” he said.

We went inside and found our seats just before Askren, sporting a surprisingly-tame haircut, wrestled his first match

His opponent, from Hungary, went up 2-0 before Asken caught him for a pin.

Doug knew a good bit about Askren’s abilities. He had covered Askren when he wrestled for the University of Missouri. As a student at the Missouri School of Journalism, Doug wrote stories for the Columbia Missourian – a newspaper produced by journalism students and managed by professionals. His sports editor at the Missourian was me.

“I never thought I’d be watching Ben Askren wrestle again,” he said, and then we both smiled, thinking about where we were and what we were watching.
Neither of us said anything, but I think we both realized that there were worse ways to spend a morning.

Askren’s second match didn’t go as well. A Cuban wrestler won easily. Those of us familiar with Askren were stunned. We’d learned to expect wins. But this was a different group, a different level.

There was still a medal chance if the Cuban wrestler advanced. But he didn’t and Askren’s Olympics were done.

But there were worse ways to spend a morning. Doug, Askren and I were each in a place we couldn’t have imagined we’d be. And it was a good place: the Olympics in Beijing.

I can’t speak for Askren and Doug.

But I can tell you that’s what I was thinking about when I walked out of the gymnasium of the China Agricultural University and back into the Beijing sun.

– Greg Bowers

Ben Askren marches out of the arena behind the USA placard.

Ben Askren marches out of the arena behind the USA placard.

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