Olympic Freestyle Team Goes Through Processing Heads To Sydney

By Steve Brunner | Sept. 13, 2000, 12 a.m. (ET)
In a strange outpost, in a soon-to-be condemned old military base, the U.S. Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Team went through the final stages on American soil before departing for Sydney, Australia. Athletes lined up one by one, pushing orange Home Depot shopping carts into an area for "U.S. Olympic Team Members Only". Athletes received an array of items. For anyone unfamiliar with the process, the athlete go from station-to-station stuffing their carts with shoes, socks, three pair of sweats (one an "Award's only), hats, sweatshirts, tank top, three pair of shorts among other things. "They're only missing one of those cars," quipped one of the athletes. The venerable Melvin Douglas called it "like Christmas." As the only adidas athlete of the Olympians, he said he was happy to receive the Olympic Team apparel with his sponsor's branding. Adidas is the U.S. Olympic Team apparel sponsor. Douglas, along with Terry Brands, Charles Burton, Sammie Henson, Kerry McCoy, and Brandon Slay had arrived in near downtown San Diego at an anti-submarine military base named "Bayside" on September 11 to process. Later in the day, Lincoln McIlravy (69kg) arrived. Cary Kolat was the final Olympian process mid-day, September 12. In addition, USA Wrestling provided both Greco-Roman (already Down Under) and Freestyle teams with an apparel issue which included t-shirts that read "America's Unsung Heroes," a spin off from the effective new tagline: REAL WRESTLING. REAL HEROES, and underscoring the lack of respect the team feels the media is offering going into the Olympics. Sports Illustrated predicted only three medals for the U.S. teams. NBC Sports has no definitive coverage outside some highlights of the Freestyle team from the medal rounds. But, National Team Coach Bruce Burnett contends: "I know we're ready to do extremely well. We've had two good training camps. If we do our thing, the publicity will follow." Following the conclusion of an already busy day, the team followed up with a teleconference with national journalists from the processing center mid-day on September 12, followed by a promotion at the San Diego Zoo with animals from the Australian exhibit. Then, to cap off their processing experience, the team had the official U.S. Olympic Team photo, including co-coaches Dan Gable, John Smith, Greg Strobel, and Team Leader Scott Beck. Said Brandon Slay, while talking on his cell phone to a friend: "They got us doing a lot. But this is the Olympics." By late Tuesday night, the team was on its way from Los Angeles on a 15-hour flight to Sydney, which make them arrive in Australia early Thursday morning. The team will march with the other 600-odd athletes during the Opening Ceremonies Friday night. "You can't miss the Opening Ceremonies," said Douglas, who was a '96 Olympian, to Brands. "There is nothing else quit like it---to walk out in front of 80,000 fans (stadium in Australia will seat close to 110,000). Brands responded: "I'm definitely walking. What else would I do, watch it from my hotel room."