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|Wrestling dad runs Boston Marathon in support of Olympic Wrestling|
By Richard Immel USA Wrestling
On April 15, 2013 Jeffrey Fleming, the father of four young wrestlers living in Granby, Conn., wanted to make a statement to the world, a statement proving that wrestling should be respected and that wrestling should remain an Olympic sport.
Fleming decided to showcase his support for wrestling on the grand international stage that is the Boston Marathon. He would race 26.2 miles wearing the traditional wrestling singlet, along with two Save Olympic Wrestling flags attached to his backpack.
Not only did Fleming have the motivation to help wrestling, he wanted to provide an example to his four sons, to show them what it means to believe in something. Jeffrey Fleming believes in the sport of wrestling.
“As the lucky father of four young boys I often wondered how I would teach them all they'd need to know to become good men and as it would turn out they would learn those lessons in the very same place that I did, in a wrestling room,” Fleming said. “They learned self discipline, sacrifice and perseverance, the very values needed to become great men.”
Spurred on by his children wanting their father to compete in the open division at various local wrestling tournaments, Fleming decided to train for a marathon to work on his endurance, and in doing so he discovered a hidden passion for running.
Fleming has used wrestling as his comparison and motivation to make it through intense physical situations throughout his life, including his training for a marathon.
“In every physical challenge I have ever endured, I always compared it to wrestling. That made even marathons seem possible,” Fleming said.
With a newfound love for running, and an ever-burning love for wrestling, Fleming saw an opportunity to bring the two together. After hearing of the recommendation of the International Olympic Committee Executive Board to remove wrestling as one of the core sports of the Olympic Games beginning in 2020, he decided the Boston Marathon would be the perfect venue to showcase the awesomeness of wrestling with the hope of making a statement to the IOC that wrestlers are fighters.
“From the moment I entered the athletes village in Hopkinton to do the pre-race preparations, the support and love for wrestling was tremendous,” Fleming said. “I knew right away that I had chosen an incredible venue with incredible people to rally the kind of support needed to save Olympic wrestling.”
Fleming took the wrestling mindset of attacking the race in three nine-mile periods with hopes of crossing the finish line in four hours. He made arrangements for his family to meet his at the finish line at the four-hour mark of the race.
Riding his emotions and the outcry of support for himself and his mission to showcase wrestling, Jeffrey Fleming finished the Boston Marathon in three hours and thirty minutes, thirty minutes faster than his goal, his family meeting him with outstretched arms at the finish line.
49 minutes after Fleming crossed the finish line, devastating acts of violence would strike the hearts of millions in Boston and around the world. Two explosions occurred within minutes of each other at the finish line of the Boston Marathon resulting in the deaths of three innocent victims and wounding more than 280 individuals.
Had Jeffrey Fleming finished the race in his expected four hours he and his family would have been at the finish line moments before the explosions.
“On the day of the race many minor miracles, one after the other, led to me and my family feeling very fortunate,” Fleming said. “From the first step in Hopkinton and every step all the way to Boston, the amazing cheers and bellows of support thrusted me towards the finish line. I felt obligated to represent wrestling with a strong showing. Had I not pushed the pace, if I had not finished strong like every wrestler knows how, my family would have been waiting at the very location where the first explosion occurred.”
Although Jeffrey Fleming’s actions to promote the great sport of wrestling may have been in vain due to the unforeseeable acts of evil that occurred in Boston, he still clings to the notion that wrestling saved his and his family’s lives.
“Through all the panic and chaos that followed it was the strength and resolve of the wrestler that kept me calm and capable of guiding the ones I love to safety,” he said.
The wrestling resolve that aided Fleming in his quest to run the Boston Marathon will have to be utilized by the entire wrestling community until a final decision is made as to whether or not wrestling will remain in the Olympics.
If Jeffrey Fleming is any indication, wrestling will not only rise to the occasion but also finish exceeding expectations.