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Jordan Burroughs After Olympic Disappointment: “I Will Be A World Champ Again”

By Craig Bohnert | Oct. 20, 2016, 12:17 p.m. (ET)

Jordan Burroughs poses for a photo on the "TODAY" show set on Copacabana Beach on Aug. 10, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

“I will be a world champ again.”

Those are the words Jordan Burroughs uttered this week in an episode of USA Wrestling's "Bonus Points" podcast, still reeling in the aftermath of a devastating loss at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

“I’m not done with wrestling,” he said. “I feel that I have a lot of wrestling still left in me.”

Two months after an early exit from the Olympic tournament, the three-time world champion has reflected on what happened in Rio and is beginning to find the perspective that only time can bring.

“Immediately after that loss, it hits you like a ton of bricks,” he said. “All at once it encapsulated me: ‘I can’t win. I can’t be Olympic champion.’ There was a wide range of emotions. There was embarrassment, then shame, then confusion, and then anger and denial and you just want to hide. It’s a difficult thing to deal with so quickly. Most people have a grieving period, but for wrestlers, if you make the repechage you have one hour to cry and be upset, then you have to go out and still compete at a high level.”

One of the faces of Team USA in the run-up to Rio, Burroughs was expected to deliver a repeat performance of the gold medal he won in London four years prior. He had also won world titles in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

“This was my Olympic year,” he said. “I had pretty much dominated this past (Olympic) cycle. This was supposed to be the time where I put myself in a great position, among America’s greatest athletes, not just a great wrestler.”

Instead, he suffered two losses on a day that was supposed to be the greatest in his career. Those two losses doubled his career total, against 130 victories. But they revealed a truth to him that every athlete must come to terms with at some point.

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“Winning conceals everything and reveals nothing,” he related. “If you win, you have no motivation to fix anything. Moving forward, you can let it drive you or you can let it kill you. This is a part of my story, another chapter added to my book that is going to make my life more interesting.

“It’s easy to be happy-go-lucky when you’re win everything,” he added, “but now I’m in a position where I can connect with more people who have gone through the pain of defeat at a high level, or just loss in life, period. It’s unfortunate that it has to be this way, but sometimes life throws you curve balls.”