Wrestler goes from living in pickup truck to making Olympic team

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In 2013, Daniel Dennis lived out of a black 1986 Ford F-150 he reportedly bought on Craigslist for $500. The former NCAA All-American had no intention of wrestling competitively again.

On Sunday, he clinched a berth on the U.S. Olympic team.

Dennis, a 29-year-old who came out of a two-year retirement in 2015, beat former University of Iowa teammate Tony Ramos in the U.S. Olympic Trials finals of the freestyle 57kg division.

The triumph fittingly came at Carver-Hawkeye Arena at Iowa City, where Dennis made his name as a two-time All-American.

He was NCAA runner-up in his final collegiate match in 2010, giving up a two-point lead in the final seconds.

By 2013, Dennis quit the sport after failing to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, his battered body no longer wanting to take the punishment.

“Kind of made my way out to California after a long time of not doing much of anything except traveling and [rock] climbing, kind of being a bum a little bit, I guess,” he said.

Dennis didn’t fully disconnect from wrestling while living in a fifth-wheel trailer for two years, after moving out of the pickup truck. He coached for cash and stayed cognizant of the national scene.

Friends and family suggested he test the competitive waters again.

“My mom is a very quiet person,” Dennis said in January. “She’s like, well your dad would’ve really loved to see it.”

Dennis’ father, Tim, introduced his son to wrestling at age 8 and died of a brain tumor in 2014, according to the Des Moines Register.

Dennis took everyone’s advice.

One competition led to another, and he eventually finished second at the 2015 World Championships Team Trials last June, making him an Olympic team contender.

Dennis believed the time off reinvigorated his body and mind.

“Just going and being uncomfortable, leaning how to be happy and keep going, whatever you have in front of you,” he said.

Now, he lives in a house in Iowa City, according to the Des Moines Register.

“I don’t know that I really, necessarily, when I came back, was like, I’m going to be an Olympian,” Dennis told media Sunday night. “Not saying I’m the best, but I think I can beat everybody as long as I wrestle well and solid.”

MORE: Burroughs leads U.S. wrestlers clinching Olympic berths

Jim Redmond, who helped son Derek finish 1992 Olympic race, dies

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Jim Redmond, who helped his injured son, Derek, finish his 1992 Olympic 400m semifinal, died at age 81 on Sunday, according to the British Olympic Association, citing family members.

At the 1992 Barcelona Games, Derek pulled his right hamstring 15 seconds into his 400m semifinal, falling to the track in anguish.

He brushed off help from officials, got up and began limping around the track. About 120 meters from the finish line, he felt the presence of an uncredentialed man who rushed down the stadium stairs, dodged officials and reportedly said, “We started this together, and we’re going to finish this together.”

“As I turned into the home straight, I could sense this person was about to try and stop me,” Derek said in an NBC Olympics profile interview before the 2012 London Games. “I was just about to get ready to sort of fend them off, and then I heard a familiar voice of my dad. He said, ‘Derek, it’s me. You don’t need to do this.'”

Derek said he shouted to his dad that he wanted to finish the race.

“He was sort of saying things like, ‘You’ve got nothing to prove. You’re a champion. You’ll come back. You’re one of the best guys in the world. You’re a true champion. You’ve got heart. You’re going to get over this. We’ll conquer the world together,'” Derek remembered. “I’m just sort of saying, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.'”

At one point, Derek noticed stadium security, not knowing who Jim was, having removed guns from their holsters.

“It’s the only time I’ve ever heard my dad use bad language,” Derek said. “He just goes, ‘Leave him alone, I’m his father.'”

Derek told himself in that moment, “I’m going to finish this race if it’s the last race I ever run.” It turned out to be the last 400m race of his career, after surgery and 18 months of rehab were not enough to yield a competitive comeback, according to Sports Illustrated.

Derek had missed the 1988 Seoul Games after tearing an Achilles, reportedly while warming up for his opening race. He looked strong in Barcelona, winning his first-round heat and quarterfinal.

“I’d rather be seen to be coming last in the semifinal than not finish in the semifinal,” he said, “because at least I can say I gave it my best.”

Asher Hong leads U.S. men’s gymnastics world team selection camp after first day

Asher Hong
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Asher Hong, 18, posted the highest all-around score on the first of two days of competition at the U.S. men’s gymnastics selection camp to determine the last three spots on the team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Hong, bidding to become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009, totaled 84.6 points in Colorado Springs. He edged Colt Walker by one tenth. Tokyo Olympians Shane Wiskus (84.15) and Yul Moldauer (83.95) were next. Full apparatus-by-apparatus scores are here.

Brody Malone, who repeated as U.S. all-around champion at August’s national championships, and runner-up Donnell Whittenburg already clinched spots on the five-man team for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. They did not compete Monday, though their results from the first day of nationals are shown in the official scores.

The three remaining team spots will not necessarily go to the top three all-arounders at this week’s camp, which is supposed to be weighed equally with results from August’s nationals. Hong was third at nationals, but if excluding difficulty bonus points from that meet that will not be considered by the committee, would have finished behind Walker and Moldauer in August.

A selection committee is expected to announce the team soon after the second and final day of selection camp competition on Wednesday evening. The committee will look at overall scoring potential for the world team final, where three men go per apparatus, and medal potential in individual events.

Stephen Nedoroscik, who last year became the first American to win a world title on the pommel horse, is trying to make the team solely on that apparatus. He wasn’t at his best at nationals and struggled again on Monday, hurting his chances of displacing an all-arounder for one of the last three spots.

The U.S. has reason to emphasize the team event over individual medals at this year’s worlds. It will clinch an Olympic berth by finishing in the top three, and its medal hopes are boosted by the absence of the Russians who won the Olympic team title. All gymnasts from Belarus and Russia are banned indefinitely from international competition due to the war in Ukraine.

In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

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