RIO DE JANEIRO – Andy Bisek wasn’t in Rio last week. While dozens of his U.S. Olympic teammates were walking in the Opening Ceremony for the Rio Games, the Chaska native was back in Colorado Springs, where he and his fellow Greco-Roman wrestlers continued their preparations for the Olympic tournament.
They still got to kick off the Games in style. Bisek, Jesse Thielke, Ben Provisor and Robby Smith put on their custom-tailored Opening Ceremony outfits and attended a celebration in downtown Colorado Springs, where the ceremony was shown on a 27-foot screen. Then Bisek went home, relaxed and watched the rest from his couch, with his wife, Ashley, and their young son and daughter.
The group arrived in Rio on Wednesday, and Bisek said the extra training has left him well-prepared for his Olympic debut Sunday at Carioca 2 Arena. The two-time world championships bronze medalist, ranked No. 5 in the world in the Greco-Roman 75-kilogram (165 pounds) weight class, opens against Yurisandi Hernandez Rios of Cuba.
“It was really nice to be a part of the Colorado Springs celebration and still be connected to the Games, even though we weren’t [in Rio],” said Bisek, the top U.S. performer in Greco-Roman wrestling over the past four years. “It’s been fun to watch the Olympics with my family. My wife is telling our son, ‘Daddy’s going to Rio, and we’re going to watch him.’
“Our group will do whatever we need to do to make sure we get the job done. You can feel the energy. We definitely feel confident.”
Bisek’s weight is considered the most competitive of the tournament, with two Olympic champions and six world champions in the field of 19. He is in the top half of the bracket with Russia’s Roman Vlasov, the defending world and Olympic champ ranked No. 1 in the world, and Kim Hyeon-Woo of Korea, who won 2012 Olympic gold at 66 kg (145.5 pounds) and moved up a weight for Rio.
U.S. Greco-Roman coach Matt Lindland is following a pattern he set before last year’s world championships. He keeps his wrestlers in Colorado Springs as long as possible, allowing them to work out in familiar surroundings and think about nothing but training. The wrestlers prefer staying home, he said, and they have come to Rio as a serious, highly focused foursome.
Lindland praised Bisek as “the consummate professional” and said everything has gone perfectly during the lead-up to the Rio Games. Bisek spent three weeks in Azerbaijan, wrestling some of the world’s best, and trained in Colorado Springs against other top wrestlers brought in to help him fine-tune his technique.
“I love the way Andy is firing right now,” Lindland said. “Everything is clicking for him. I expect him to have great success. He is healthy, he is prepared, he is ready.”
Minnesota has put at least one Greco-Roman wrestler on every U.S. Olympic team since 1968. Dan Chandler, a three-time Olympian and coach of the Minnesota Storm club, said the state’s wrestling community is proud to have Bisek as its representative in Rio.
Bisek feels the same way — and he will be even prouder if he brings home a medal. Meanwhile, he’s approaching the tournament as if it were any other. That will change once he is done competing.
“I’ll stay for the Closing Ceremony,” he said. “I can’t miss both of them. After competing, I really want to enjoy the moment and embrace being here.’’