LONDON — Holley Mangold posed for photographs with fans on the concourse of ExCeL Centre, a splint on her right wrist having replaced the massive ice bag she wore after her Olympic weightlifting finals. She smiled, gave a thumbs-up and warmly greeted everyone, trying to ignore the injurious pain that haunted her on every lift.
"I'm fallin' apart," she said after Sunday's event, "I need a good two months of … well, I have to get surgery on my hand now."
Mangold, a U.S. hope in the Olympic women's 75kg-plus weightlifting competition, finished 10th overall with a total score of 240; her teammate, Sarah Robles, was seventh (265). Mangold was successful on only two of her six attempts in the snatch and clean and jerk, hitting a 105kg (231.5 pounds) and a 135kg (297.6 pounds), respectively.
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Two days before leaving for London, Mangold, 22, tore a tendon in her right wrist, and believes she tore it again during the competition. "But I'm having surgery, so I can tear it as much as I want," she said with a smile.
Add that wrist injury to the injuries in her other wrist — a tear, a bruised bone, and "some sort of pocket of fluid" — as well as a shoulder injury and a knee injury, and Mangold was legitimately concerned she may not complete a lift at the London Olympics.
What she did know: That she would try to lift. Despite the pain. Despite the uncertainty.
Because that's what Mangolds do.
"It's difficult dealing with pain. But you want to compete. Nothing short of death keeps you from doing it," said her brother Nick Mangold, the New York Jets center who flew eight hours to London on Saturday night to watch his little sister's Olympic debut.
"But it's the athlete in us that understands there's going to be pain involved. She could have easily ducked out. But she stuck through it."
Holley Mangold had an Olympic dream as a young girl, albeit one in which she'd become the next beloved American pixie in gymnastics.
"I wanted to be in for gymnastics, but my body seemed to disagree with that," she told the Boston Globe.
Mangold is currently listed at 5-foot-8 and 350 pounds. She had tried football as a lineman (OK, lineperson) before committing to weightlifting 3 1/2 years ago.
Nick Mangold has lifted weights all his life as a "secondary nature" to being a football star, first at Ohio State and then with the Jets.
"When she got into competitive lifting, I didn't really know what to make of it," he said.
The older brother supported the younger sister's burgeoning career, all the way through her Olympic qualification. The question was, would he have a chance to watch her compete, considering coach Rex Ryan's New York Jets camp was scheduled during the weightlifting cycle of the Summer Games?
To Nick Mangold's surprise, the team encouraged him to make the hasty trip to London, joining his family in the ExCeL stands to watch Holley vie for a medal.
"I got the blessings from my teammates, and Rex as well. Watching it on TV made me realize the importance of it. Once I got all three [of those] together, it was an easy decision," he said.
He broke the news to his fans with this tweet:
Which, it turns out, also broke the news to Holley.
"I found out through Twitter. He never picks up the phone," she said.
Nick Mangold watched his sister lift about a dozen rows from the stage; wearing a black Cincinnati Reds hat and sipping a beer. He enjoyed the competition, won in a record-setting performance by Lulu Zhou of China, but admitted it was uncomfortable watching Holley after knowing the extent of her injuries.
"Whenever you're dealing with an injury, it's difficult. There's a helpless feeling," he said. "[But] Holley did great. It's an amazing accomplishment for the short amount of time she's been competing."
Holley Mangold was frustrated by her injuries, but satisfied with her performance in light of them.
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She couldn't sleep the night before the event, worried that she wouldn't be able to accomplish any of her lifts. The most she had done in the snatch recently was 80kg (176 pounds); in the clean and jerk, she hadn't been completing her lifts. She started the snatch at 105, which was the lowest possible weight she could have started with — and it took her two attempts to lift it.
"Two weeks ago, I couldn't even turn the bar over. And today I did 105. I haven't made a jerk in two or three weeks because it hurt really bad. But two Cortisone shots later, I was able to jerk 135 (297.6 pounds)," she said.
She even overcame a potential wardrobe malfunction in warm-ups, as the zipper of her singlet broke off.
"I was afraid it was going to rip in the crotch or something. Which would have been embarrassing. Because they have that camera right there, and that's all I need: a rip in the crotch and a camera staring up at me," she said, noting that she was wearing a second singlet underneath to prevent such a calamity.
With all of her injuries, was there ever a consideration that she'd drop out of the competition?
"I wouldn't drop out. It's the Olympics," she said. "Especially because I came here and some other girl didn't get to come here. If I came here, and just dropped out … it was too close to the meet for someone to replace me. I had to fight through the pain."
Speaking to reporters after the event, Holley Mangold's eyes darted to a TV screen showing Russian silver medalist Tatiana Kashirina completing a massive lift of 181kg in the clean and jerk.
What does she think when seeing an effort like that?
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"I think 'one day I'll beat you,'" she said. "That might be a little cocky."
Or just determined. Determined to get back to the Olympics in Rio four years from now. Determined to show what she can do when she isn't limited by ailments.
"This made me really excited for the next Olympics. And I'll be there. And I won't be hurt," she said.
No word if Nick Mangold will make that trip, but his sister knows when she intends to return his support from these Olympics.
"If he goes to the Super Bowl, I'll go watch him," she said.
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