As a three-time Olympic veteran, Reese Hoffa knows certain tricks of the trade.
For instance, the Georgia all-American and former world champion shot putter knows to carry a chair so he won’t be on his feet for the entirety of Friday’s opening ceremony, which could stretch as many as five hours. But the 34-year-old wants to appreciate that and as much of the London Games as he can, as this will surely be his final Olympics.
“I’m going to walk [in the opening ceremony] and I’m going to try to enjoy as much of the Olympics as I possibly can because I kind of know I’m not going to get another chance to do this again,” Hoffa said. “London, if there ever was a place in your Olympic dream career kind of thing, I couldn’t think of a better place.”
Hoffa is one of the most accomplished competitors in the history of his sport and he has done it with a flair all his own -- from gnawing on celebratory turkey legs during victory laps around the stadium to once competing while wearing a mask like a professional wrestler.
However, he travels to London looking to put the most important finishing touch on his otherwise outstanding professional career. While he has won or medaled at essentially all of the elite events in his sport, Hoffa is still waiting to appear on the medal stand at the Olympics. His best finish in two previous attempts is seventh in the 2008 Beijing Games.
“That is the NBA ring of track and field,” Hoffa said of medaling in the Olympics. “There’s no other meet that is held in higher esteem within the professional ranks.”
Yet while he obviously wants to complete his career with a medal on the biggest stage -- and he has a good shot, having won his last six meets, including the Olympic U.S. Trials, since placing fourth at the world indoor championships in March -- Hoffa does not feel his career will be incomplete without medaling in London.
“I really like the way my professional career has gone,” he said. “I’ve kept my nose clean for the better part of 11 years and I’ve gained respect not only from people in my sport in shot putting, but in all the rest of the disciplines -- sprints and distances. People know who the name of Hoffa is and they know that I do things a certain way. It’s been awesome. I could never imagine I could have so many friends from all over the world doing so many different things.”
His last shot will come in England, before a largely British crowd that Hoffa describes as “my kind of people -- beer-drinking, fatty food-eating people -- and you just can’t beat that.” He has already enjoyed unforgettable experiences during the extravagant opening ceremonies in Beijing and the competition at Greece’s Olympia Stadium, which had last hosted a sporting event in 393 A.D.
Competing in that ancient venue ranks as Hoffa’s most treasured Olympic memory, but he’s quick to point out that he hopes a new experience in London will someday top the list.
“You can’t even put into words walking out into something like that,” Hoffa said of competing in Olympia Stadium. “You come out of the columns and all of the sudden there’s more people in close proximity to the ring than I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It was phenomenal.
“I don’t know that any other Olympics can live up to that, but I am willing to let London give it a chance. Of course, if you win the Olympics, then that will instantly take it to No. 1.”