Baumgartner's third medal is golden Son, 2, inspires 286-pound wrestler


BARCELONA, Spain -- In the end, the biggest words came from one of the smallest people.

A 2-year-old boy named Bryan Baumgartner.

"I have a son and we called him on his birthday [July 24]," said Bruce Baumgartner, the U.S. super heavyweight in freestyle wrestling. "I missed it because I was here. My wife had coached him to say, 'Win the gold, Daddy.' That really motivated me. It was really difficult being away from him for two weeks."

An inspired Baumgartner blanked Canada's Jeff Thue, 8-0, yesterday to win the gold medal in the 286-pound classification and become the first American wrestler in history to win three Olympic medals.

Baumgartner, from Cambridge Springs, Pa., was all over Thue. He scored a single-leg takedown in the first 11 seconds and then used a pair of leg laces to push the margin to 4-0 with only 20 seconds gone.

End of match, and into the history books.

Baumgartner also is the first American wrestler to win two gold medals since George Mehnert won his second in the 1908 Olympic Games.

"It's going to be kind of difficult to explain to him when he sees the tape why I'm not there," said Baumgartner. "One motivation that keeps me going is to give him [Bryan] a chance to see me wrestle when he will be old enough to remember it. Hopefully, he'll understand that this is a big part of my life."

A part that seemed to slip away a year ago. That's when Baumgartner bombed in the world championships, finishing seventh, his worst showing in the last decade.

But instead of contemplating retirement, Baumgartner, 31, ignored the critics who said he was too old and too slow.

He watched videotape, and found out he had little movement. Instead of attacking, he was being attacked. He sought the advice of a number of coaches like Bobby Douglas and Lee Roy Smith.

Then he adjusted, finally spurred on by the words of his son.

Maybe that's why the 1992 gold medal might have been sweeter than the gold from the 1984 Games in Los Angeles and the silver from 1988 in Seoul, South Korea.

He bear-hugged his wife out of the aisle and onto the floor as he went to collect his gold medal.

"I wrestled a much more aggressive style this year," Baumgartner said. "Each medal has been nice in its own way, but this one will be very special because not too many people really gave me the chance to be sitting here with this medal."

Baumgartner's 1992 gold-medal march was one of the greatest in U.S. Olympic history. He had to defeat the Unified Team's David Gobedjishvili, who beat him for the 1988 gold medal, and world champ Andreas Schroder of Germany.

Baumgartner beat Gobedjishvili, 3-0, and Schroder, 7-0. He gave up only one point in six matches, outscoring his opponents, 35-1.

"Bruce is a very powerful guy, fast, and he has been at this for a long time," said Thue. "Once he got that early jump on me, the momentum kept building."

The momentum also keeps building for the U.S. wrestling team. Baumgartner was the first American to win a gold medal in this competition, but the United States also picked up a silver yesterday from Kenny Monday (163 pounds). Zeke Jones (114.5) won a silver medal for the United States on Wednesday.

Monday, 30, from Stillwater, Okla., and a 1988 gold medalist, was defeated by South Korea's Jang-Soon Park, 1-0, in their title match.

Park, who stayed on the defensive the entire match, took Monday down with 15 seconds left by countering a takedown attempt. Monday had beaten Park four previous times.

John Smith (136.5) and Kevin Jackson (180.5) of the United States can move into the finals tonight with wins this morning.

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