RTRS-Olympics-Wrestling-Taub proves the power of persistence By Alan Baldwin
BEIJING, Aug 6 (Reuters) - A less determined man than Ari Taub might have felt he was destined never to become an Olympic athlete.
The Canadian super-heavyweight Greco-Roman wrestler has suffered more blocks and body blows outside the ring than in it over the past two decades.
A first time Olympian at an age when most wrestlers have retired, the 37-year-old's presence in Beijing marks him out as the embodiment of the ideal that the taking part matters as much as the winning.
In 1992, Taub qualified for the Barcelona Olympics as the youngest member of Canada's freestyle team.
"Then one of the other guys threatened to sue the federation and they ended up giving him a wrestle-off, which I proceeded to lose a couple of weeks before the Olympics," the Calgary lawyer told Reuters at the athletes' village on Wednesday.
"I had already gotten all my stuff and the letter from the prime minister saying congratulations. So I didn't go to '92."
The following year Taub was diagnosed with a neck injury and told that he risked ending up as a quadriplegic if he continued wrestling. So he quit, went to law school and started a family.
That might have been the end of it, particularly when he found himself grappling with chronic fatigue.
After "lying in bed for a couple of years", his thoughts turned to coaching. And then came the revelation.
"I went to the doctor to see if I was going to become a quad(riplegic) by coaching and the guy did an MRI (scan) and laughed at me and said 'you're good to go.'" His injury had been misdiagnosed all along.
Others might have cursed the lost decade. Taub, who admitted he had been "a little disappointed", recognised a blessing in disguise. He had a qualification, a family and renewed hope.
But still there were obstacles to overcome.
By 2004 he won the national Olympic trials as Canadian Greco-Roman number one only to be told he was ineligible for the Athens Games because he lacked international matches. Another four-year wait became inevitable.
After all that, the qualification for Beijing was an anti-climax. He secured his place simply by stepping on the scales at the Pan American championships.
"I've said all along it's really more about the journey than the actual event," he declared on Wednesday. "I'm happy that I'm here, but I'm really happy about all the steps I've taken to get here, the choices I've made in my life.
"The Olympics aren't important. Someone could take the Olympics away from me today and say 'Sorry, you don't get to compete.'
"But they can't take away the last 20 years. They can't take away all the obstacles that I've overcome, all of the times where I've had the opportunity to work harder and overcome or say 'I just can't do it, sorry.'
"I've had so many of those opportunities to say I'm not sure I can do it...but I've been able to say 'Okay, I think this is right for me, this is what I'm going to do.
"I actually believe now that I can go home to the rest of my life and implement those principles and be successful. It's closure. My wife will be very happy that it is."
(For more stories visit our multimedia website "Road to Beijing" at http://www.reuters.com/news/sports/2008olympics; and see our blog at http://blogs.reuters.com/china)
Keywords: OLYMPICS WRESTLING/TAUB
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