Olympic Champion Bids Farewell at Carver-Hawkeye

By J.R. Ogden, Reporter

Henry Cejudo, of Colorado Springs, Colo., takes off his shoes after losing to Nick Simmons, of Corvallis, Ore., in their 55-kilogram freestyle match at the U.S. Olympic wrestling team trials, Sunday, April 22, 2012, in Iowa City, Iowa. Cejudo removed his shoes after the loss, symbolic of a wrestler calling it quits, and flung them into the crowd. Cejudo won the gold medal at the Olympics in Beijing. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

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By Kara Kelly

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Henry Cejudo’s inspirational rise to Olympic champion ended Sunday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

He hopes, however, to continue to inspire.

“This is not the end of Henry Cejudo,” he said after taking off his shoes and flinging them into the crowd after losing to Nick Simmons in the challenge tournament semifinals. “Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m at peace, man, I’m at peace.”

Cejudo retired after winning gold in 2008, wrote a book “American Victory” about his rise from poverty as the son of an illegal immigrant and talking and inspiring others.

The 25-year-old from Phoenix, Ariz., came out of retirement last year for another shot at Olympic gold. Now he wants to focus on others, mainly struggling youth like he once was.

“My purpose in life is to serve others,” he said, often beaming a big smile. “I’ll just be a life coach. It’s beyond wrestling for me.”

It was bitter sweet, however. No wrestlers wants to go out after a loss. It’s much easier to retire after winning gold.

“I’m said,” he said. “But I’m full of peace. I’m full of joy. I’m not going to say goodbye to the sport of wrestling. I’m done competing.”

He wants to help this year’s U.S. representative at 121 pounds win the Olympic title, then begin his life out of wrestling. He wants to finish college, get married and a become a father.

His grew up without a father.

“I’m a big family man,” he said, noting he wants a daughter and will name her America. “I love to be around my family.”

Cejudo has been familiar to wrestling fans since his teen years, moving to the Olympic Training Center at 16 and finishing high school in Colorado. He bypassed college for Olympic-level training.

“I was an experiment,” he said. “I’m still a kid. There’s a lot of life, more than just wrestling.”

He called wrestling the “greatest sport alive” but said doesn’t need it any more. He has the platform and he wants to use it to unify all races.

“There’s different goals in my life,” he said.

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