Athletic competition is over at the 2012 Summer Olympics with the University of California well represented amongst the elite athletes in London. A contingent of nearly 100 UC affiliated student and alumni athletes, coaches, trainers, doctors and staff are proudly representing the United States and other nations from around the globe. From badminton to taekwondo, UC athletes and staff are key participants in at this summer’s world competition. It comes to no surprise that UC Berkeley and UCLA have two of the largest groups from the California University system however UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis, UC San Diego, UC Riverside and UCSF are all being represented in London. What’s the missing link in this extraordinary group of UC schools? UC Santa Cruz of course. Although most of the UC schools represented in the Olympics are currently Division I teams UCSC athletics are definitely worthy despite a Division III ranking in the NCAA. So maybe 2012 wasn’t “The Year of the Banana Slug” but that doesn’t mean that 2016 can’t be. Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro will host the next Summer Olympics with probably even more UC athletes participating. Just imagine 6 foot 10 UCSC graduate Thomas Davidson on the men’s volleyball team or maybe standout Santa Cruz freshman Sarah Mackey leading a women’s basketball team to Olympic gold. As for now, keep up the good work Team USA and of course GO SLUGS!!!!!
What separates an average athlete from an Olympic gold medalist? A few extra hours spent in the gym or on the track? Maybe a supportive family and coaching staff? However, for British Heavyweight Champion Audley Harrison, in order to successfully win the gold medal in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, he had to overcome a lifetime of obstacles such as being raised in a broken home, getting expelled from two schools and serving time in a young offenders institution.
Recently I had the honor of interviewing the British heavyweight champion, and Harrison shared his story about starting his amateur boxing career at 19, winning a gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics and attempting to make a 2012 Redemption. Harrison says, “When you look at my story it’s about resilience, redemption, overcoming adversity and finding a way to get it done no matter what. A majority of the time in my career I have always been able to find the sunshine.”
After receiving a gold medal at the Olympics, Harrison went on to win national titles and major championships across the globe, despite his tumultuous past. Ten years after starting his amateur career in London, England, Harrison led Team Britain to an Olympic gold in the heavyweight division at the 2000 Summer Olympics. Harrison’s victory put Britain back on the map for boxing, as they had not won an Olympic gold for 32 years prior to Harrison’s win.
Although Harrison’s career hit many highs and lows after his gold medal victory in Sydney, today, the Olympic British boxing team can attribute their success to a man who got plenty of stick in boxing circles. Tony Jeffries (member of triumphant British boxing team in Bejing) said, “It is thanks to Audley that Pricey (David Price), me, and the 2012 generation of boxers were able to get such good support for the toughest two weeks of our sporting lives.” More than 9 million has been invested in amateur boxing in the lead-up to London. It was Harrison who opened the cash tap for performance director Robert McCracken’s squad of seven men and three women in the Olympics.
Harrison’s accomplishments not only account to the success he has produced from winning a gold medal, but he also tops the charts for the heavyweight division with over 30 victories across the globe. With fame and fortune, comes brutal criticism and negativity from the social media and the public; however, Harrison does not pay any attention to the words of others but rather focuses on himself and his own journey. Harrison remarks, “Ultimately, the pathway that I am walking is my own and it is a path not walked by anyone else before. I am living the life in the realtime. It is not a boxing journey, but a life journey.”
Today, 12 years after winning the gold medal in Sydney, Harrison is ready for a 2012 Redemption and renewal of his professional boxing career. On October 13th, Harrison will take on British heavyweight champion and 2008 Bronze Olympic Beijing medalist, David Price, in “The Battle of the Olympians” at Liverpool’s Echo Arena. Harrison’s 2012 Redemption can be attributed to the complete 360 he has made and the “perfect” life he now leads: “My whole life now is perfect…and the last thing I need to fix is my career and that’s what’s going to happen on October 13th.”
From a troubled child to a heavyweight champion, Audley Harrison represents a true athlete who has overcome adversity in order to succeed: “I have always looked on the bright side of life. Having a positive attitude, you can find your way out of no where.”
Tune in to Slug Talk on KZSC in the fall to hear a live interview with Harrison after “The Battle of the Olympians.”