Tuesday, December 29, 2009

From Retirement to the Medal Stand.(Sports Desk)(SUMMER 2004 GAMES --JUDO: MEN'S 73 KILOGRAMS).

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When he had no more moves to make, no more clocks to check, Jimmy Pedro Jr. collapsed into the arms of his coaches. His body sagged until he looked into the crowd and saw his father and younger brother.

Jimmy Pedro Sr. was holding a camera. Michael Pedro was crying.

Jimmy Jr., who minutes before had secured a bronze medal in judo, scaled the stands at Ano Liossia Olympic Hall, hopped the railing and sank into waiting arms.

''Everything I wished for happened today,'' Pedro said Monday after becoming the first American judoka to win two Olympic medals. His first medal, also a bronze, came eight years ago.

''I said that bronze in Atlanta was as good as gold for me. I'll tell you, this one means even more.''

It meant so much, Pedro said, because of his return to the sport after a two-year retirement following a fifth-place finish at the 2000 Sydney Games. This bronze was meaningful, he said, because he had had to navigate a difficult draw.

Lee Won Hee of South Korea, who defeated Pedro earlier Monday by throwing him to the mat, won the gold medal in the 73-kilogram (164-pound) class. Vitaly Makarov of Russia won silver, and Leandro Guilheiro of Brazil won the other bronze medal.

Instead of faltering during a seven-hour day, Pedro ran off four straight victories in his consolation bracket after his loss, including one over Anatoly Laryukov of Belarus, who had defeated Pedro for a bronze medal in Sydney, and Gennadiy Bilodid of Ukraine, who had beaten Pedro in the finals of the Hungarian Open in February.

To win the bronze, Pedro defeated Daniel Fernandes of France, the No. 2-ranked judoka, pinning him to the mat around the neck. Fernandes tapped Pedro on the body to signal that he was submitting.

''For a 33-year-old guy, it's been a long morning,'' said Pedro, who was the oldest judoka in every match except the one against Laryukov, who is one month older.

After two Olympics, Pedro did not think he would be competing in a third. He was living comfortably in Lawrence, Mass., with his wife, Marie, his daughter, Casey, and his sons, A.J. and Ricky. He had taken a job with Monster.com to help former Olympic athletes make the transition into the work force.

But he was prompted to return to judo because of a visit to the Salt Lake Winter Games in 2002. At the medals plaza, Pedro saw the speedskater Derek Parra with a gold medal around his neck after he set a world record in the 1,500 meters. Pedro grabbed his cellphone and called home. Marie answered.

''I'd really like to give this one more shot,'' Pedro said. She said, ''I knew this was coming.''

Pedro enlisted the help of his father, who was an alternate on the 1976 Olympic team. Jimmy Sr. told his son that he had better take this seriously.

''I'm not going through this saga if you're going just to go,'' the father said. ''It's going to be a long road, but if you're willing to sacrifice, we're willing to help you.''

Michael Pedro, 21, soon to be captain of Brown's wrestling team, trained with him, mimicking the moves of the Eastern European judokas who sometimes bedeviled Pedro. When Pedro had the medal around his neck Monday, his father yelled down to the medal stand, where the four medalists stood.

''Jimmy!'' he shouted, pointing his camera. ''Jimmy, this way!''

The four turned and posed.

''My dad is a man of few words,'' said Pedro, who runs a judo center with his father in Massachusetts. ''When he gets choked up, he's stoic and strong.''

Before he left the hall, Pedro said he was retiring from Olympic competition. He wanted to call Marie to tell her he had won a medal. During the Sydney Games, she had checked his results online and saw that he had finished out of the medals.

''I can't wait to call her with the good news,'' Pedro said. ''I could have stayed home and sat behind my desk. Instead, I decided to give it one last shot. Whether I won gold or not, that bronze medal, I had to fight every single moment of this day to get it.''


Photo: Jimmy Pedro won a bronze medal in judo by defeating Daniel Fernandes of France. (Photo by Issei Kato/Reuters)

Source Citation
Hack, Damon. "From Retirement to the Medal Stand." New York Times 17 Aug. 2004: D2(L). Academic OneFile. Web. 29 Dec. 2009. .

Gale Document Number:A120755160

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