Jordan Burroughs, Olympic and world champion in freestyle wrestling, will be helping Team USA kick off the Road to Rio tour in Philadelphia on Saturday, July 4th.
In a phone interview, Burroughs said he happily agreed to join the Road to Rio tour presented by Liberty Mutual Insurance because he has deep roots in the area: he grew up in Winslow, New Jersey, just 18 miles away, and his mother works in Philadelphia.
As might be expected for a Team USA athlete, Burroughs is particularly excited to be in the home of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall this weekend. “This is the birthplace of independence, so it’s definitely historic to be here on the Fourth of July,” he said.
Burroughs will also be making time to visit his favorite cheesesteak place, Jim’s on South Street. He’s planning to stop in before the Road to Rio tour, but won’t be as indulging as much as he might like. “I have to make weight in a couple weeks,” he said, “so I might only be able to have half of it.”
He’ll be signing autographs and taking pictures with fans at the free event at Ben Franklin Parkway, between N. 20th and 21st St, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. He’s also happy to let fans try on his medal and have their own Olympic moment.
He explained that he’s not overly cautious about sharing his medal. “It’s just memorabilia for me. When I initially won it obviously it was a little bit closer to my heart, but now I understand that it’s a tangible piece of the Olympic Games for fans to see a gold medal, to see what it’s like to be an Olympic champion.”
And the whole goal of the tour, he said, is to “get fans excited and have them rally around Team USA.” The tour will visit eight more cities in the next year, with San Diego in September as the next stop and Boston on August 5th, the day of the Rio Opening Ceremony, as the last stop.
Burroughs is already looking ahead to 2016. “Rio is in my sights,” he said, and September’s World Championships will be “a stepping stone to Rio de Janerio, where is where I want to be in 2016. ”
He’s had to adjust to a lot of changes since winning gold in 2012, and he acknowledges that there will be major differences between the two Games.
“Before London I was a young man, I was one of the youngest guys on the team, and I was single. Now I’m a veteran, I’m one of the older guys on the team, and I’m married and I have a son. So things have changed in terms of the dynamics of my life, but the goal remains the same. And that’s to wrestle well and to win a second Olympic gold medal.”
Burroughs will be twenty-eight at the Rio Games, which he considers an advantage.
“I’m a little bit older but I feel great, I feel like I’ve improved as a wrestler, and I really feel like my chances of winning an Olympic gold medal this time around are better than they were in London.”
“With age comes experience in the sport of wrestling. I’ve gotten more time on the mat, I’ve gotten better at certain positions, I’m more confident in my abilities, I’ve been under more stressful situations which has prepared me for the intense moments of being an Olympian. I’m more well-rounded as an athlete and as a young man.”