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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS

He Might Not Be the Best, but Henry Is Definitely the Most

July 30, 1996|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — Hello, room service?

Bigger, stronger, hungrier, wider and more vigilant than ever, weightlifter Mark Henry promises to be one of the Games' most intriguing characters, no matter that few give him a chance to win a medal today in the 108-kilogram-plus--that's 238 pounds or more--division at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Since the Barcelona Games, where he finished 10th as a 21-year-old Olympic neophyte, Henry has grown in many ways. For one, he now checks in at 414 pounds, more than 40 pounds more than in 1992, when he was already the largest athlete in Olympic history.

Oh, what girth. Oh, what television. Last week, the boys at NBC engaged Henry in a food-eating contest with cameras rolling. Don't you wonder who won?

Since Barcelona, Henry has established American records in the snatch, 396 3/4 pounds; clean-and-jerk, 485 pounds, and total, 881 3/4.

He is, arguably, the strongest man on the planet, having set several world power-lifting records.

But all that doesn't mean hooey in Olympic lifting, in which technique is as important as brute strength and the whiff of steroid abuse lingers.

Although Henry figures to better his American records and dazzle the crowd with his presence, his medal hopes are pretty much pie--better make that two--in the sky.

Almost everyone holds this opinion. Henry is not among them.

"My goal is to do better than I've ever done before and win a medal," he says. "It's real possible. It seems an impossible goal to everybody else, because they're not me."

Henry, from Silsbee, Texas, is in tip-top shape after training for several weeks in seclusion on a small island off the coast of Nova Scotia.

Can he win a medal? Not likely. His event should be dominated by the usual Eastern European hybrids, some with dubious anabolic histories. Alexander Kurlovich, from Belarus, the two-time defending Olympic champion, tries to join Turkey's Naim "Pocket Hercules" Suleymanoglu as the only men to win three gold medals in weightlifting.

Kurlovich, though, has been suspended more than once because of positive drug tests and, in fact, had a two-year ban conveniently commuted just in time to compete in these games.

None of this should impact Henry's marketing appeal. His Olympic moment, in fact, is being sponsored by the World Wrestling Federation, where a future in lights and tights beckons.

His transition to the WWF, in fact, will be viewed by some as a step up in legitimacy.

Henry has several larger-than-life options.

"I'd like to have two or three lives," he says. "To go play basketball, football, wrestle in the WWF, just weightlifting, just power-lifting. Just have one individual sport and be able to live with that. I'm trying to do it all at once. I've narrowed it down now. After the games, if I'm not going to be lifting, then I might just come out to Hollywood and let you all have me."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

WEIGHTLIFTING

Whole Lotta Henry

Mark Henry weighs 414 pounds and is the largest athlete in Olympic history. But girth along win't win him a medal in the 108-kilogram-plus (238 pounds or more) division with two-time Olympic champion Alexander Kurlovich in the mix. Since a 10th-place finish in 1992, Henry has establised American records in the snatch (396 3/4 pounds), clean-and-jerk (485 pounds) and total (881 3/4).

*--*

YEAR GOLD MEDALS PRESS SNATCH JERK TOTAL POUNDS 1992 Alexander Kurlovich -- 451 539 990 Belarus 1988 Alexander Kurlovich -- 467.5* 550 1017.5* USSR 1984 Den Lukin -- 379.5 528 907.5 Austria 1980 Sultan Rakhmanov -- 429* 539 968 USSR 1976 Vassily Alexseyev -- 407* 561** 968 USSR 1972 Vassily Alexseyev 517* 385* 506* 1408* USSR 1968 Leonid Zhabotynsky 440* 374* 445.5 1259.5 USSR 1964 Leonid Zhabotynsky 412.5 368.5* 478.5** 1259.5* USSR 1960 Yuri Vlasov 396* 341* 445.5** 1182.5** USSR

*--*

Note: Press was eliminated from competition for 1976 Olympics.

* Olympic Record

**World Record

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