LONDON – At the moment the gold medal and a $250,000 bonus was won, American wrestler Jordan Burroughs jumped in the air. He ran around the ring. He stood on the medal stand even though the medal ceremony wouldn't happen for another half hour.
Then he wanted to see his mother. The only problem was, Janice Burroughs was high up in Section 410 in North Arena 2 of the ExCeL Centre. Between them stood a waist-high wall, several rows of stands, and hundreds of screaming people.
And yet Burroughs, now the Olympic champion in the middleweight division, would not be denied. He jumped over the wall into the swarm of fans and then waded through fist pumps and back slaps until he finally reached Janice standing in front of seat 291, more than halfway up the stands.
He hugged her. He told her he loved her. But before he could say anything else, he was pulled away. The fans in Section 410 weren't accustomed to Olympic gold-medal winners hiking up to see them. They pulled out cell phones and threw their arms around Burroughs. They snapped pictures.
And Burroughs smiled into their flashes.
He has the $250,000 bonus, now, given by USA Wrestling
to the winner of any Olympic gold medal. The reward comes from something called the Living the Dream Medal Fund, and it exists to inspire American wrestlers to win gold.
Not that Jordan Burroughs needed a bonus to win a gold medal.
He has a Twitter account that has suddenly drawn attention. The name of the account is @alliseeisgold. On the account he wrote he was going to win the gold. With a boast like that, what choice did he have but to win?
"It's easy to be confident when I work as hard as I work," he later said.
Then he looked at the gold medal hanging around his neck.
"I probably won't take this off for the next two weeks," he said.
Bonus or not, Burroughs might be America's best amateur wrestler. He seemed to toy with his opponents as he moved through his Friday matches, letting them feel as if they had a chance before lunging at them, pulling them down, and jumping on top of them.
For much of the gold-medal match he danced around Iranian Sadegh Gourdazi, before flying from a crouch and tackling Gourdazi in the final seconds of each of the two periods. His first takedown was waved off. The second was good. And with only 10 seconds left in the match, a 2-0 victory was clinched. There was nothing Gourdazi could do.
Later Burroughs admitted this was actually a plan. He wanted to make his move at a time when Gourdazi couldn't respond. In other words, he attacked when he felt like it. And while his words sounded boastful, he swore they weren't.
"You have to understand, he does what he wants to do when he wants to do it," said Rick Koss, Burroughs's coach at West Township High School in New Jersey.
Koss laughed as he stood in Section 410 in the moments after Burroughs received his medal.
"Jordan could have won that match 6-0," Koss added. "He just did what he had to do."
Wrestling has become one of the forgotten sports in the United States
, even while some of its bigger Olympic stars in recent years have been wrestlers. The bonus fund is a way to inspire and entice gold-medal-caliber talent. And maybe a big check is something U.S. wrestlers need to motivate them.
It just doesn't appear to be the thing that drives Burroughs. While he said he could use the money, no longer having to pick between food and gas when his college scholarship check arrives, he also has spoken of nothing but the Olympic gold for as long as his mother or college coach can remember. The medal has been the important thing. Not a bonus.
"If the queen of England came onto the mat, I would probably double-leg her," he said.
Later he held his gold medal again. He rubbed it. He said people rolled their eyes when he won the World Championships last year. He said people told him he was lucky. They said he would not win in the Olympics, though it was hard to know exactly who these people are, because Burroughs came to London as a favorite to win a medal.
"They aren't laughing now," he said.
Janice Burroughs says people have the wrong idea about her son. She said he is not boastful or cocky at all. She seems surprised they think so. He's actually quite humble, she said. She cringes when the Twitter account comes up. Then she laughs.
"He said, 'No one can see me behind the Twitter page,'" she said.
As she said this, her son was walking back to the medal stand – this time for the real ceremony. Music played. Someone handed Jordan Burroughs a bouquet. Then they put the medal around his neck. The "Star-Spangled Banner" played. The American flag climbed toward the ceiling.
As it did, the man who could see only gold stood on a podium he was always certain would be his.
"I would have had to change my Twitter name if I lost," he said.
And that was worth a lot more in respect than a $250,000 check.
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