Four years after qualifying for the London Olympics only to have that dashed by a life-changing ruling over his “failure to be available” for three drug tests in an 18-month period, Lenexa’s Cam F. Awesome again is on the verge of an Olympic berth after winning a second straight U.S. Olympic Boxing trials title.
He departs Monday from Colorado Springs for Azerbaijan for a 10-day “acclimation camp” before a qualifying tournament to secure a place at the upcoming Rio Olympics.
When he begins competition next week depends on how many other competitors are there in the 201-pound division.
“I’m hoping no one shows up,” he said, laughing, on Friday. “ ‘Make weight, and you’re a champion.’ ”
Awesome likes to use comedy as a stress reliever, which is why he was going to do another of his stand-up gigs on Saturday in Colorado Springs and may seek to find an audience in Baku, Azerbaijan.
In the hotel lobby, he figures, there might be some people who speak English. Perhaps they’d appreciate his observations about Baku, where he has competed before and recalled that everyone either was driving a Bentley or homeless.
Humoring himself or not, there’s no getting away from the stress of this now.
If he fails to win this tournament, his last chance to qualify will be in Venezuela July 3-8 — when he’d rather be “preparing to prepare for the Olympics” than desperate to make it.
So while he feels like he’s compartmentalizing his anxieties well enough by day, he’s apparently less able to contain it at night.
“I’ve been told I’m sleep-eating, and I wake up with peanut butter on me,” he said in another phone interview a few weeks ago.
Then again, he added, “I’m not murdering anybody in my sleep, so I don’t really see an issue.”
Controlling what he can control in the waking hours in the month he’s been in Colorado Springs, Awesome has been staying true to his veganism and accelerating his conditioning.
That has included repeated ventures to the dreaded Incline that starts at about 6,500 feet elevation and skies to 8,500 in less than a mile.
“When you get to the top, there’s no concession stand, there’s no water foundation, there’s no vending machine,” said Awesome, who has reduced his time to the top from about 70 minutes to 42.
So be it.
Because the only real relief he seeks now is to win his way to Rio.
In scan mode
▪ Then Lenroy Thompson, Awesome came to Kansas City from New York via Florida to work with legendary coach John Brown, who now is the president of USA Boxing and to whom Awesome is forever grateful.
In an interview, Brown called Awesome both “the funniest human being I’ve ever been around” (for humor marked by clever exaggeration and juxtaposition) and “my best friend in the whole world” though they come from entirely different worlds. He dearly hopes Awesome makes the U.S. team.
▪ When Awesome told me about “sleep-eating,” I felt the need to tell him one of the dumb jokes I once heard and have committed to memory. “Last night, I dreamed I was eating a marshmallow. When I woke up, my pillow was gone.” … Boom. Surely out of pity, he laughed and said, “I’ll take that.”
▪ There were a lot of Royals highlights last week, but maybe nothing was more stirring than seeing every outfielder and infielder go to Brett Eibner’s side when he suffered an ankle injury against Tampa. If you missed it, check out the second photo in Star photographer John Sleezer’s gallery from that night.
▪ Ten years ago today, the Royals made Luke Hochevar the only overall No. 1 pick in franchise history. It was a special day, he recalled last week, though adding that to those given much, “much is expected.”
For years of Hochevar’s ups and downs, the decision symbolized the futility of the franchise overall and apparent failure to launch even under the Dayton Moore regime. “The struggles,” as Hochevar called those years, hurt. “At the end of the day, you’ve got to answer to yourself. It’s impossible to lie to yourself.” All he knew to do was try to keep giving his best.
Now he is just the opposite: a symbol of resolve and patience and the ability to evolve and grow for a franchise whose entire reincarnation depended on that.
▪ Hochevar found his place in the bullpen in 2013, and he was crucial in the 2015 postseason run. In nine appearances, he surrendered no runs and six hits and worked two innings to get the win in the decisive Game 5 of the World Series.
All along, Hochevar said, he felt support from general manager Dayton Moore and manager Ned Yost, who always “loved his stuff” and personality and says his career went into “hyper-drive” in the bullpen.
That faith “speaks volumes,” Hochevar said, “and I think that’s a big reason you keep pushing for the mark. … You play this game to win championships and to be part of something bigger than yourself.”
▪ Technically, Moore didn’t draft Hochevar. But since Moore was hired days before that draft and began the job officially soon thereafter, it’s a matter of conjecture how much input he had. Or as Hochevar put it with a smile: “Well, Dayton’s the only one that I know.”
▪ Why it’s called “7 Highway” instead of “Highway 7” here remains an unsolved mystery, though I was pleased to discover that Star colleague Mike Hendricks took a run at solving it a few years ago. In 2002, he called linguists at three area universities, representatives of the Missouri and Kansas highway departments, pored over the Dictionary of American Regional English and scoured the internet.
And got nowhere but a few guesses. Any insight appreciated. “Anyone? Anyone? … Bueller?”