For Deitchler, Success Is a Work of Body Art

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 5, 2008

BEIJING, Aug. 4 -- Jake Deitchler had to wait more than two years before his parents finally broke down and allowed him to get a tattoo. After making his first national team in Greco-Roman wrestling at age 17, Deitchler got Chinese characters under his right armpit that stand for "God, warrior, wrestler."

Deitchler got the itch for another tattoo this year, but his parents told him they would let him -- as soon as he made the U.S. Olympic team. "Three months later, I surprised them and I made the team," Deitchler said with a grin.

At 18, Deitchler is the first high schooler to make the U.S. Olympic wrestling team in 32 years -- and just the third ever. He earned his spot with a shocking upset in the semifinals of the trials against Harry Lester, a two-time worlds bronze medalist, in the 145.5-pound division. The win was shocking to everyone except Deitchler. "For me to do this, I had to believe in myself that it could happen before it ever did and I think that's why it did happen," Deitchler said. "Now, the important thing is not to be satisfied with just making the team."

Deitchler is a three-time Minnesota state champion who ended his career there with a 111-match winning streak. Brandon Paulson, a silver medalist in the 1996 Olympics and a fellow graduate of Anoka High, has coached him the past four years.

Deitchler lost in his first match at the junior world championships in Beijing last summer, but is confident that he will perform much better in the Olympics, telling his teammates that he plans to medal. "There has always been something inside me that I don't want to tread the path that somebody else already has," Deitchler said. "I want to make a statement for myself, and a name for myself. Making this team is a great way to start."

So what will his next tattoo be? "The Olympic rings," he said.

Memmel Should Be Fine

U.S. gymnast Chellsie Memmel was able to train with the team Monday, and officials expect she'll be fit by Sunday, when the women's competition gets underway, despite the ankle injury she suffered during training last weekend.

Memmel, the 2005 world all-around champion, is a key member of the U.S. squad, which enters the Beijing Games as the defending world champion and is expected to face a fierce battle with China for the team gold.

Memmel, 20, is among the team's more versatile members. She's also a determined competitor, earning her Olympic berth after a nearly one-year layoff following shoulder surgery. She exceeded expectations with a stirring performance at nationals and the Olympic trials this summer, finishing third behind Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin.

Depth has been an asset of the U.S. team, which is flush with enough talent to field two worthy Olympic squads. But team coordinator Martha Karolyi lost one of her options in July, when Shayla Worley broke a bone in her right leg.

Memmel had a slight setback during that same two-day camp, wrenching her back when she tumbled out of bounds during her floor routine. She rebounded the next day, turning in the second-best performance on the uneven bars.

U.S. gymnastics officials have until Saturday to submit the names of the six female athletes who will compete in Beijing.

Three alternates, including Gaithersburg's Corrie Lothrop, are training with their individual coaches in Tokyo in case one or more is needed to fill in. Lothrop is strong on the vault, but Jana Bieger and Ivana Hong are regarded as more versatile.

Phelps Ducks Spotlight

The U.S. swimming team arrived in Beijing on Monday after its week-long train-and-relax session at a posh country club in Singapore, which followed a far more grueling two-week camp in Palo Alto, Calif.

The team landed at Beijing International Airport, and reporters there saw star Michael Phelps sneak out a side exit -- despite the presence of autograph-seekers and media -- and quietly enter the team bus. Phelps, though, said over the weekend in a teleconference from Singapore that he was supremely confident as he goes for a record eight gold medals.

"This is probably some of the best training I've done in quite some time," Phelps said. "I felt the best I have in the water, training-wise, and I've definitely done some of my best times in the water while I've been training here."

Phelps, too, arrived wearing a mustache. "Just a joke," he said. It'll be shaved by the time he swims his first event, the preliminary heats of the 400-meter individual medley on Saturday night. His first final will come in that event -- in which he won one of his six golds four years ago in Athens -- on Sunday morning local time (Saturday night in the United States).

Radcliffe Plans to Run

World record holder Paula Radcliffe told the Associated Press that she intends to run the marathon on Aug. 17 "unless my leg breaks down."

Radcliffe, 34, has been trying to overcome a stress fracture in her left thigh in time to compete in her fourth straight Olympics. She is training in Macau. . . .

Usain Bolt's 100-meter record was ratified Monday by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

The Jamaican sprinter ran the 100 in 9.72 seconds on May 31 in New York, breaking Asafa Powell's previous mark of 9.74.

Staff writers Liz Clarke and Barry Svrluga contributed to this report from Beijing.

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