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McRae, too, is an Olympic hopeful, but weighing in at 222 pounds less than his roommate, in the lightweight division. They are two of seven members of the U.S. national team who have been offered the opportunity to live and train at the center. "We had someone scout Mark at a collegiate invitational meet in December, and Mark was impressive," says Jones. "So we invited him for a tryout here. We weighed him in straightaway, and he weighed 398. We started him off on squats, and we couldn't get enough weight on the bar. It was literally bending. We had 935 pounds on, and it wasn't enough. That impressed me."
After the tryout, Jones persuaded the U.S. Weightlifting Federation, which already had chosen its six resident athletes, to make room for Henry. He quit Austin Community College and moved to Colorado Springs in March. "Raw talent is a great find," says Jim Schmitz, president of the U.S. Weightlifting Federation. "I don't want to jinx his potential down the road, but he looks like an alltime great."
The key, weightlifting observers say, is to keep Henry interested in lifting and not to lose him to pro football or even to track. Henry threw the discus 176 feet in his senior year in high school—without spinning in the ring.
"Being a lifter is a very difficult life," says Jeff Michels, a member of the 1988 Olympic team, who has been training for 11 years. "There is so much to be learned technique-wise. Mark is very, very strong, but he needs the technique, and that might take some time. But if he sets his goal to be Olympic champion and doesn't stray, I think he can be. We see a lot of faces like Mark Henry come and go. Most don't have what it takes to stick it out. Time will tell."
Henry insists he is committed. He works out twice a day with the training center's resident coach, Dragomir Cioroslan, a former Romanian Olympian who defected last year. The twice-a-day sessions are grueling, often lasting two hours each. Henry's best lift is the snatch, in which he has lifted 352 pounds in practice. He has cleared 343 pounds in competition, which is 23 pounds more than Anderson hoisted in '56 and 125 shy of the Olympic record. His best clean and jerk is 431 pounds, but only 374 pounds in competition—188 short of the Olympic mark. In the Junior World Championships, Henry placed fourth in the snatch and sixth in the clean and jerk to help the U.S. wind up ninth in the team competition-its best finish ever. Henry turned 20 three weeks ago, so this is the last year he is eligible for junior competition.
"Most lifters can snatch their body weight," says Jones. "If Mark does that, he's close to the national record [420 pounds]. Most can clean-and-jerk double their body weight. If he docs that, he's the world-record holder."
Between workouts, Henry spends his time eating and napping. At night, he and McRae practice dance steps, talk about girls, cars and money and play jokes on other athletes at the complex. "He told me once that he's the happiest he's ever been," says Jones. "I think it's because he's found a place he finally fits in."
The training center provided him with several size-XXXXXL T-shirts and a warmup suit with U.S. WEIGHTLIFTING embroidered on the jacket. Now, when he enters a restaurant, the waiter knows that Henry is eating his way to the American dream. "Before, they just thought I was eating to be eating," says Henry.
Jones also found a company that would make a pair of weightlifting shoes to fit Henry. You don't find size 16EEEE on the rack. "We had to trace his foot and fax it to Germany so Adidas could make a custom pair," says Jones. "Adidas faxed back, 'Thanks for the joke.' " Assured it was no joke, Adidas shipped the shoes three weeks later. Finally, Henry could toss aside the hightop sneakers he had been wearing and tie on a pair of shoes suitable for world-class competition.
"There is nothing more in the world that I want right now than to win that Olympic gold," says Henry. "Then I'll win another. Then I'll go on a tour across the country like Paul Anderson did and make me some good money. Then I'm going to play offensive lineman for the Cowboys. And then I'm going to be a movie star."