Varner and Uhl Reap the Appreciation of Iowans
DES MOINES - There they were, seated together on the riser in front of the Central Iowa media Saturday in a press conference before the Olympic Homecoming Celebration at the Knapp Center presented by Hy-Vee. Iowa State Olympic wrestling gold medalist Jake Varner and Olympian Lisa Uhl, the Cyclones' 2010 athletes of the year, met the press back in Iowa Saturday after their success in the London Games. In some ways, their experiences were similar, in other ways they were different. Both are still trying to put their experiences of a lifetime in personal perspective.
Varner defeated Valerie Andriitsev of Ukraine, 1-0, 1-0, in the final to win gold in men's 96-kilogram freestyle Sunday on the last day of the Olympic Games. Varner's competition did not begin until the second week of the Games so he was able to take in the atmosphere of the world's greatest sporting event.
Varner is the sixth Iowa State wrestler to win an Olympic Gold Medal, joining Glen Brand (1948), Dan Gable (1972), Ben Peterson (1972), Kevin Jackson (1992), Cael Sanderson (2004).
"It's pretty surreal right now," Varner said. "It's awesome to be at that level with those guys. It's a great feeling. Iowa State has a great wrestling tradition, the best wrestlers in the country go there to wrestle. I was fortunate to be a part of the great success the program has had and will continue to experience."
Uhl, who finished 13th in the Olympic 10,000-meter final, has established herself as one of the world's top distance runners. She finished the race with a personal best time of 31:12.80.
"I am young," Uhl said. "I ran a personal best. I am moving forward and getting better so I am happy."
The 2013 USTAF Track and Field Championships, the qualifier for next year's World Championships, will be contested in Des Moines.
"I'm looking forward to being back on the blue oval at Drake. I'll run the 10,000 meters and perhaps double in the 5,000 meters."
The Olympians were received by a packed Knapp Center crowd of several thousand fans. For the pair of Cyclones, it was another experience in what has been a great post-collegiate career. Just two years removed from their historic Iowa State careers, the road ahead has plenty of room for more achievement.