Monday, February 18, 2008

Chris Bono is in the Chattanooga Olympic Zone

My friend and Olympic Gold Medal swimmer, John Naber, often says, “Olympians are ordinary people who do extraordinary things.” On the road to the Olympics in Beijing this summer, “extraordinary” – as in “extra” and “ordinary” – could not be better defined than by Chattanooga’s Chris Bono.

On the “ordinary” side of the word, Chris is a family man – husband, father of two of young children, and a proud son who admires his parents. He understands the value of a job in his life – he shares knowledge, experience, and his passion for teaching collegiate athletes as the Head Coach of the wrestling program at University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC.) He’s a “regular” at his kids’ activities – soccer and softball games on most weekends. On the “ordinary” side, Chris Bono is like most of us.

On the “extra” side of the word, Chris begins to separate himself from an ordinary Chattanoogan. Chris’ wrestling program represents a school that lives in the sports shadow of Knoxville but is arguably the shining beacon of Chattanooga’s collegiate sports scene. Chris has built a perennial powerhouse consistently ranked in the Top 20 and attracts top wrestling recruits from around the country. And then there’s that “Gold Medal thing…”

Olympic wrestling is a unique sport in that it’s possible to coach collegiate athletes while pursuing your own Olympic dreams. And Chris carries a big dream. I meet many Olympic hopefuls in my travels and work – most want to qualify for the Olympic Games. For Chris, the goal is a bit higher – to win Olympic Gold. Of course, as an athlete, he wants to win for himself. But in our conversations, he glows when he speaks about how reaching this goal would honor his family and their support of his pursuit as well as Chattanooga and the opportunities a Gold Medal would mean of our city such as hosting world class wrestling events and attracting the “best of the best” student athletes to UTC.

As I have come to know Chris in recent weeks, I’m buying what he’s selling – a big dream mixed in with a “normal” family and professional life. It just fits. In an extraordinary way.


Catch Chris' Chattanooga Olympic Zone profile on Tuesday, February 19, 2008 on Channel 3's Eyewitness News at 6pm or right here on later that evening on the Chattanooga Olympic Zone blog.

No comments: