From Maryvale to Bejing — My Story of Overcoming Adversities and Becoming a Gold Medalist
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Henry Cejudo, the youngest of six children, was born on February 9, 1987 in Los Angeles, California. His mom, Nelly Rico, a hard-working immigrant from Mexico, often moved her family from state to state looking for work. Henry's father was absent from their lives, spending a majority of the time within the California Penal System. Nelly was forced to work two jobs in order to care for her six children alone.
Motivated by the hardships of his childhood, Henry immersed himself in school and athletics. Henry's brother Angel introduced him to the sport of wrestling. From the beginning, he was determined to prove himself to the world, and to the father that he never really knew. Driven by desire, Henry was focused on winning the World and Olympic championships.
Henry and his brother dominated the competition while attending Maryvale High School in Phoenix. Angel graduated in 2004 with four state championships and a record of 150-0. At the same time, Henry won his second state wrestling championship in Arizona.
Impressed by the accomplishments of both Angel and Henry Cejudo, Dave Bennet, the national developmental freestyle coach for U.S.A Wrestling, invited both Angel and Henry to attend the resident freestyle program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. Both Henry and Angel accepted the invitation and relocated to Colorado Springs to follow their dream of becoming Olympic wrestling champions.
While attending the freestyle program at the Olympic Training Center, Henry completed his education at Coronado High School in Colorado Springs. Mirroring his accomplishments in Arizona, Henry added two more state wrestling championships to his record, and graduated with a combined record of 120-3. Henry participated in two Junior World Championships, placing fifth in 2005, and second in 2006. Henry also went on to receive the prestigious ASICS National High School Wrestler of the Year award in 2006. That same year, he became the first high school student to win the U.S. Nationals since the formation of USA Wrestling's national body in 1983.
Upon graduation, Henry took the bold and highly unusual road to the Olympic gold, foregoing the customary route of a collegiate wrestling program. Henry began training full time at the Olympic Training Center to prepare for the 2008 Olympic Games. He then went on to represent the U.S.A. in the Beijing Olympics, and brought home the gold. Henry not only achieved his dream of becoming an Olympic champion, he made history by becoming the youngest American wrestler to ever win an Olympic gold medal.
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While in Beijing, Henry appeared on numerous national television programs including NBC's Today Show, CBS' Early Morning Show and ABC's Nightly News. Other appearances included The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, ESPN's Sports Center, Access Hollywood, the Oprah Winfrey Show and Japan's popular "Ninja Warrior" television show. Henry also had the distinct honor of presenting one of three scholarships to a deserving Hispanic student during Univision's 6th Annual Premios Juventud Youth Awards.
Henry was named one of Arizona's ten most fascinating people by the Arizona Republic in 2008 and continues to be featured in numerous publications such as Latino Perspectives Magazine and Sports Illustrated.
Henry Cejudo's compelling journey to Olympic Gold has captivated and inspired the nation. He continues to use celebrity as a platform to inspire millions of young athletes, troubled youth and inner city kids.