By Tyler Huey
Nisqually Valley News
Kurt Angle won a gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 1996 Olympics and now, 15 years later, the 42-year-old is training to make a comeback in hopes of qualifying for next summer's 2012 Olympics. Maybe this is nostalgia talking, but if there's anyone who can do it, it's a true American hero like him.
I remember when Angle, who wrestles for TNA and turns 43 in December, made his WWF debut in 1998. That was back in the heyday of professional wrestling for my friends and I. Angle was introduced as "the most celebrated real athlete in WWF history" and became a heel by insulting the crowd's intelligence and rubbing his gold medal " which he "wore" to the ring " in everyone's face. Although I didn't like him at first, his arrogance became comical and I eventually started rooting for the bad guy.
Does Angle have a realistic chance at making the Olympic team? And if he does do it, could he medal against the best amateur wrestlers in the world, many of whom are 15-plus years younger than him? Eh, it's a long shot, but it's fun to cheer for the underdog. At least he is realistic about his chances.
"I am not going to be one of the guys picked to make the team and definitely not one of the guys picked to win a medal," Angle said in late-June, according to pwmania.com, a professional wresting website.
It would be easy to say Angle isn't a serious contender to make the team. Angle is approaching his mid-40s and has suffered countless injuries over the years during his pro wrestling career. However, it would be a mistake to overlook him. This is the same guy who not only won a gold medal, but did so with a broken neck after having suffered two fractured vertebrae in the Olympic trials.
When Angle says he'll be ready because he's been training for the last three months and still has eight more months to prepare, who's to say he won't accomplish his goal? He did it 15 years ago with a broken neck, so maybe next year he'll celebrate his sweet 16 in style.
Then again, Angle could fail, but you cannot count him out because for some athletes age really is just a number. For instance, Randy Couture, at the age of 43, won the UFC heavyweight title in March 2007 via unanimous decision. In August 2007, Couture defended his title with a TKO victory. And in November 2009, at the age of 46, Couture won a light heavyweight match to become the oldest fighter to win a fight in the UFC.
Heck, there are many other examples such as Bernard Hopkins who, in May 2011 at the age of 46, became the oldest boxer to ever win a world title by claiming the WBC light heavyweight belt via unanimous decision.
Angle isn't Couture or Hopkins, but it would be foolish to say he has no chance of resembling them in due time. I'm not saying Angle will, I'm just saying don't be surprised if he does.
I haven't watched pro wrestling in a decade. But if it wasn't for the WWF there's a good chance I and millions of others would have never heard of Angle because, let's be honest, wrestling isn't the most popular sport at the summer Olympics and its results may go unnoticed to casual viewers " especially former 12-year-olds like myself.
While in the WWF Angle's gimmick was to rant and rave that he's an American hero. If he accomplishes his goal next summer, not only would it be remarkable, it will further validate that claim.
It's true. It's true.