As a child, Sam Hazewinkel didn't dream of being a firefighter or a police officer. Instead he dreamed of being an Olympic wrestler.
To Hazewinkel, it was a totally normal ambition for a child. His father and his uncle were both members of the 1968 and 1972 Greco-Roman wrestling Olympic teams, and Hazewinkel grew up around the sport, he said.
"I played with my dad's Olympic ring when I was a kid, put on his jacket and ran around the house. I thought every kid was doing that," Hazewinkel said during a Team USA press conference in London. "I thought every kid wanted to be an Olympian when they grew up."
In 2012, at the age of 29, Hazewinkel finally has the opportunity to fulfill his dream of competing at the Olympic Games. After several years of finishing just off the Olympic and World teams in Greco-Roman wrestling, Hazewinkel decided to switch to freestyle wrestling. In his first freestyle Olympic trials, the 55-kilogram (121-pound) wrestler qualified for his first Olympic team.
Olympic wrestling is in his blood, and it's a part of his family tradition. Nevertheless, Hazewinkel's father and uncle never put any pressure on him to compete at a high level, he said.
"It's always been there, but (my dad) did a really great job of never putting a shadow on me," Hazewinkel said during the press conference. "I never felt like I needed to get to that level, to be up there with my dad and uncle."
Hazewinkel added: "I never felt like I was ever an apple that fell far from the tree, and then to be able to reach that Olympic team, to reach that goal and join them, add to that tradition -- I can't even put it into words."
Hazewinkel is expected to wrestle at the Olympic Games on Aug. 10 at ExCeL.
Read more from this author: About Sam Hazewinkel, 55-Kilogram Freestyle Wrestler for the United States
Sandra Johnson is a longtime wrestling fan. While working for the United States Olympic Committee, Johnson had the opportunity to live alongside the freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestlers at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Follow her on Twitter: @SandraJohnson46
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