Since he was eight years old, wrestling, be it the rigors of the amateur sport, or the showcase that is professional wrestling, has defined Kurt Angle.
Angle has dominated since storming onto the scene in 1996, winning the gold medal in freestyle wrestling at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. But, wrestling in junior competitions as an 8-year-old, Angle went 2-16. Starting the sport mainly because of his brothers' influence, it didn't appear that he had the "it" factor his siblings had.
"I heard my brothers talking one time and they said that I just didn't have it. I thought, 'What are they talking about?' I was just a kid, but I wanted to prove them wrong," said Angle in a telephone interview. "My dad was a great halfback in the Army and he got a lot of awards. My brothers were all great wrestlers, my sister was a great athlete, and here I was, and I stunk."
Little by little, Angle's record and skills improved. By his senior year, he won the state title.
Angle's sophomore year at Clarion State in his native Pennsylvania he went undefeated and won the national title. After his senior year, he started to train for the Olympics.
"I was an alternate in 1992, but that made me realize that I was pretty close," he said. "I trained the next four years, eight or nine hours a day, literally every day. By 1995 I made the national team, and I won the World Championships. People thought it was a fluke because it was my first time at the Worlds and I won, and that just doesn't happen."
Pressure was mounting on Angle for a repeat performance at the '96 Summer Games. But, a few months before the opening ceremonies, he broke his neck.