Going into the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Mark Henry was considered one of the favourites in weightlifting. He held three world records in power lifting, and everyone liked the 6-foot-3, 24-year-old, 420-pounder from tiny Silsbee, Texas.
After all, Henry had been to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where he finished 10th in the superheavyweight class. He could only continue to go up, people said.
But Henry was a power lifter, which is different than the weightlifting events at the Olympics — the clean and jerk (in which the barbell is lifted from the floor to the shoulders, then overhead) and the snatch (where the barbell is lifting from the floor overhead in one motion). Weightlifting is considered more sophisticated, involving more agility, timing, flexibility and technique than power lifting, which relies on brute strength.
Henry’s experiences at the Georgia World Congress Centre in Atlanta weren’t all that memorable. He finished 14th, lifting 831 pounds in total: 386 in the snatch and 445 in his only attempt at the clean-and-jerk. Russia’s Andrey Chemerkin won gold, lifting a world-record 573 in the clean-and-jerk and tying the world record with a total of 1,008.
After his last lift Henry grimaced, reached for his back, and limped down the steps. A short time later, he withdrew because of injury.
“I’m a little disappointed,” he told Knight-Ridder at the time, “but more disappointed for my team. They voted me team captain, and I felt like I had extra to do, but it just didn’t happen.
“I actually dreamed of winning a medal, but I would have settled for doing the best I’ve ever done. Instead, I did the best I could do.”
After The Games, he signed on with the World Wrestling Federation for what he called at the time a “10-year, multimillion-dollar contract”, talking about how he watched Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan over the years. Henry trained for pro wrestling in the WWF’s Stamford gym and with Leo Burke out in Calgary.
He crowed at the time that his contract with the WWF had a clause that allowed him time off to train and compete in power lifting, and in interviews into 1997, he still professed a belief that he would compete in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
“I’ve signed to wrestle for the 1998-99 then I’ll go back to lifting,” he told the Calgary Herald in October 1997. “In ’92, I exceed my expectations. In ’96, I didn’t. I’ll be there in 2000. Injuries are the only thing that can stop me.”
Instead, Henry became a fairly solid mid-card WWFer, never quite finding his niche until the ‘Sexual Chocolate’ persona allowed him to show his tender, funny side.
Weight gain has troubled Henry as of late, and he is apparently on ‘re-assignment’ in the Ohio Valley Wrestling promotion run by Jim Cornette.
As his skills in the ring continue to improve, there’s no doubt he’ll be back in the WWF rings. But a shot at the Olympic rings again seems highly unlikely.