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Extreme Olympian reflects
With the Biggest Blockbuster of the Summer right around the corner, the World's Strongest Champion Mark Henry is focused on one thing -- keeping his ECW gold out of the hands of his SummerSlam opponent, Matt Hardy. Yet, on the first day of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, he is reflective on the time he spent competing in the Games, representing the United States in 1992 and 1996.
At the age of 21, a 366-pound Henry headed to Barcelona, Spain as the largest weightlifter in Olympic history. In the 1992 Games, he placed 10th in the super heavyweight division. It was after he competed in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta that the ECW Champion joined WWE.
"Being my size, as a Strongman and an athlete in general, it takes hard work. For the Olympics and other competitions I engaged in, the training was long," the ECW Champion explained. "For the Games, my training started at nine in the morning and ended at four in the afternoon.
He continued, "I was young, so there was also school mixed in. I had to eat three or four times a day and get therapy on my body."
Though Henry never won a medal during his Olympic tenure, at the 1995 Pan American Games, he brought home gold, silver, and bronze. He has also participated in numerous Strongman competitions, including the "World's Strongest Man" contest in 2002 at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic. There, Henry came out on top, solidifying his place in history as one of the strongest men ever to live.
One Olympian this summer who also looks to place his mark in the history books is potential medal winner and record holder, Michael Phelps. All eyes are on the American swimmer as he attempts to win a record-setting eight Olympic gold medals at these Games.
The World's Strongest Champion explained that men like Phelps train day-in and day-out on a strict schedule to get where they are. He compared his training as a man in his 20s to the regimen he now keeps saying, "I travel so much in WWE. With wrestling, we are constantly on and off planes, exercising in the arenas, conditioning when we can. It's just as tough, but in a different way."
"The Olympics put an incredible amount of pressure on an athlete," Henry explained about the main difference between performing in the Games and battling inside the WWE ring.
"In WWE, we do 250-somewhat shows a year. Of course, I get a rush much more often now, but the Olympics come around every four years and you only have four or five competitions a year. So, there's really a lot of pressure to prove oneself in a short time, but also a lot of stimulation."
Tough, long and strenuous -- but certainly worth the grand payoff. For a man with Olympic experience, medals to call his own, a decorated wrestling career and the coveted title of "World's Strongest Man," Mark Henry continues to climb the mountain of success.
"I have been very lucky in my life and I plan to hold my place at the top in WWE for a long time to come," he said. "Competition drives me. That is also why I think when the time comes for me to retire from wrestling, would like to be a part of the Olympics again," Henry said.
He added, "There's a lot of talent, especially young talent, competing in the Games nowadays and I would like to help them. I see myself as an Olympic critic. I want to see those kids treated fairly, so the political side is where I am headed next, I think."
The young talent Henry refers to includes two teens this summer. Both 15, Mary Beth Dunnichay and partner Haley Ishimatsu -- the youngest athletes representing the United States -- will compete as part of the Women's 10-meter Synchro Diving team.
The World's Strongest Champion expressed how he greatly enjoys watching the Olympic Games, but admits, at the moment, he has to focus on his own concerns as well -- one in particular by the name of Matt Hardy.
Henry plans to dominate at the Biggest Blockbuster of the Summer against a formidable challenger in Hardy and continue his reign as champion in the Land of the Extreme. Will the Olympian-turned-ECW Champion retain the gold? Catch SummerSlam live, Sunday, Aug. 17, only on pay-per-view.