Raising an Olympian: Henry Cejudo

For U.S. champion wrestler Henry Cejudo, the road to the 2012 London Olympics was as much for his mom as it was for him. But Cejudo's plans to have his mom watch him in London were thwarted when he fell short; in April 2012, he lost a key match at the semifinals of the U.S. Olympic Trials. In a quick but dramatic moment after losing, he removed his wrestling shoes while still on the mat -- a long-standing tradition that signifies an athlete's retirement -- and then threw them to the cheering crowd.

Photos: Henry Cejudo's road to the 2012 London Olympic Games

The 25-year-old wrestler won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, but his mom, Nelly Rico, was unable to attend due to citizenship issues. Says the soft-spoken Cejudo: "Here I am, her kid, who she raised for 21 years of their life. I was about to accomplish my dream, and the number one person in my life wasn't there." Cejudo's victory was also one for the history books. At 21, he became the youngest American wrestler to win a gold medal.

Rico, who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico, received her citizenship in 2011. Had her son qualified for the 2012 London Olympics, she would have been in attendance.

Click for more Henry Cejudo photosClick for more Henry Cejudo photosCejudo is the youngest of six children. Rico, a single mom, often worked multiple jobs -- from stitching to construction work -- to provide for her kids. "She had the attitude of no excuse," says Cejudo. "We're talking about a lady who would miss work, drive 14 hours to go see her son wrestle...that's the type of mother that I have."

Rico says she would use her circumstances to inspire her kids to have a better life. She would tell them, "Look at how I am so that you cannot be like me. You have to be in a different position."

And Cejudo definitely took notice. Her work ethic is deeply ingrained is his life and fueled his competitive training: "Through my eyes I actually visually see my mother work. If I put the same amount of work that my mother did in her job to support us, and if I do it in wrestling, I could become the best in the world."

So how does mom feel about her son's retirement from competitive wrestling? ''I think she wanted me to retire anyway. She doesn't like me wrestling,'' he told the Associated Press in April 2012. ''She's a sweet lady. To be honest with you, she'd rather have us preaching.''

Also on Shine:
Raising an Olympian: Diana Lopez
Raising an Olympian: Kortney Clemons
Raising an Olympian: Ryan Lochte
Raising an Olympian: Kerri Walsh-Jennings
Raising an Olympian: Shawn Johnson

Loading...

FOLLOW SHINE

POPULAR TEAM MOM STORIES