"When I lifted weights, I didn't lift just to
maintain my muscle tone. I lifted to increase what I already
had, to push to a new limit. Every time I worked, I was
getting a little better. I kept moving that limit back and
back. Every time I walked out of the gym, I was a little
better than when I walked in."
During the summer before Dan Gable was a freshman
at Iowa State, he worked out with Bob Buzzard. Buzzard had
won two Big Eight wrestling titles. He recalls, "Dan
was a tough kid. Some days I'd crunch him, some days I'd
fool around and let him make some moves. But on the last day
before I went back to Eastern Michigan University, I wanted to
show him he had a ways to go, even though he had won three
consecutive state high school championships."
After Buzzard finished with Gable that night, Dan
fell to the mat crying tears of anger. Right then Gable
recalls, "I vowed I wouldn't ever let anyone destroy me
again. I was going to work at it every day, so hard that I
would be the toughest guy in the world. By the end of
practice, I wanted to be physically tired, to know that I'd been
through a workout. If I wasn't tired, I must have cheated
somehow, so I stayed a little longer."
To push one's body to the limit of endurance and
beyond, to deny one's self normal pleasures while all around
others are enjoying those pleasures, to persevere under grueling
competition is, to me, a rare act of courage. Gabble decided
that he would never allow himself to get tired in a match again.
Dan's strength and endurance allowed him to be on the offense all
the time, always attacking, always pressing, never giving an
opponent a chance to relax or counterattack.
After a college career in which Gable won two
National titles and lost only one match, he found a new
motivation-the Russians, the dominant force in wrestling.
Before the Olympic games of 1972, Gable had defeated a dozen
Russians in dual meets. At a banquet after one match, the
Russians made a vow to Gable that they would find someone before
the games in Munich who would beat him.
Between the banquet and the Olympics, Gable tore
the cartilage in his left knee. The doctors recommended and
operation, but Gable wouldn't hear of it-he just kept on
practicing. The injury did, however, force Gable to alter
his wrestling style.
"I changed my style of wrestling from simply
offensive scoring to what I call defensive, offensive scoring.
In this situation, I actually made myself a better wrestler
because I learned a new way of scoring."
Once the games began, Gable encountered more
adversity. He received a head-bump to the left eye in his
first match and doctors sewed up the eye with seven stitches.
"The blood was obstructing my opponents
chances of wrestling, and consequently, the medical doctor almost
disqualified me," he recalls. "I can
remember thinking in my corner while the doctors were bandaging me
up that nothing was going to stop me."
Neither the Russians nor any other country found a
wrestler who could beat Dan Gable in the 1972 Olympics. He
won the gold medal without giving up a point to any of six
opponents. Dan Gable had a goal, and he would not allow
anything or anyone to stop him.