American Victory

According to American Victory, the account he produced with the assistance of sportswriter Bill Plaschke, Henry Cejudo first wrestled for ice cream and quarters. His first promoters were drunks who wanted to see two Mexican kids beat each other up.

Cejudo’s mother has spent much of her life worrying that the amnesty she earned from the immigration authorities in the U.S. might be snatched away from her at any time.

His alcoholic father has been largely absent from Henry’s life, sometimes because he’s been in jail.

Though he demonstrated early his aptitude for wrestling, Cejudo’s climb to Olympic competition and an eventual gold medal in Beijing was not without missteps.

Certainly he’s faced what could have been crippling disadvantages, but he also did some damage to his own prospects. American Victory devotes relatively little time to his ill-considered decision to leave the Olympic Training Center without permission, an incident in which he manhandled a former girlfriend just prior to the 2008 Games, and a couple of bar fights that happened when he returned home after the Beijing Olympics. (Cejudo essentially dismisses the fights by saying “I didn’t start either one,” and “It was self-defense and the cops knew it.”)

Given Henry Cejudo’s background and the deep suspicion his mother has had of the U.S. government and its immigration policies, Cejudo’s constant and enthusiastic celebration of the U.S. might seem surprising. But he has in mind a future beyond wrestling, a future in which, he says, his story would make a great movie. The last sentence of American Victory is “Sweet land of liberty, of thee I will sing,” though in Henry’s case, the performance won’t literally be singing. Though he hasn’t completely rejected the idea of wrestling in the Olympics again, he’d like to make a career of motivational speaking.

This program aired on January 21, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.


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