Here’s a story she’ll tell tonight.
It’s from her days playing varsity football for Alter High.
“I had this guy shove his hands up under my shoulder pads and go ‘Honk! ... Honk!’ as soon as the play started,” Holley Mangold said with a grin as she mimicked the guy’s breast-grabbing grope for HBO’s Mary Carillo.
“But that was OK, because I got him on the next play. We may have boobs, but they have something more sensitive. ... And I might have given him a cheap shot.”
“So you kneed him?” Carillo said with a mix of gasp and grimace.
Mangold shook her head. “No, I punched him. In high school football games no one wears cups as much as they should.”
The nation gets its introduction to Holley Mangold tonight at 10 p.m. when she and her quest as a U.S. Olympian are featured on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”
I’ve known Mangold much of her life, covered every Summer Olympics since 1984 and just watched an advanced copy of her interview with Carillo and from all of that I can tell you this about her coming-out party:
She has the story, the personality and the talent that are going to make people notice her these Olympic Games.
“She might be a plus-sized Mary Lou Retton,” Vern Mangold, Holley’s dad, said with a chuckle Monday night.
Of course, you’d have to add in some Mae West and Wonder Woman, too.
“She’s loud, she’s bawdy, she’s 350 pounds and in two months she’ll be an Olympian,” is the way Carillo opens the HBO segment. “Twenty-two-year-old Holley Mangold is headed to London to compete in weightlifting, a sport she’s practically just learned and one in which no one expected her to qualify.”
HBO documents her sports ascension, beginning with her days as a peewee football player. And if Holley is the star of the HBO show, then her mom, Therese, gets the nod for best supporting role.
“When she was in grade school, at the beginning of the year we’d write a letter to her teachers and tell them she was playing football — just because of the number of bruises she’d have,” Therese said. “We were concerned they’d think my husband and I were doing something to her.”
HBO also shows video of Mangold’s days playing at Alter, where she became the first girl in the state to play varsity as a lineman and also the first to play in a state championship game. There are also clips of her plunging off a diving board, dancing and wearing a tiara and teal gown as part of the Alter Homecoming court.
As Carillo notes “Holley Mangold is not your average world class athlete,” you see Holley doing the splits.
After Alter, Mangold spent two years at Ursuline College and then took up weightlifting. She found a coach in Mark Cannella of Columbus and he figured her shot might come at the 2016 Olympic Games. Instead she qualified as a super heavyweight at the Olympic Trials in March, lifting 250 pounds in the single-motion snatch and 320 in the two-part clean and jerk. She finished second to Sarah Robles and they will be the only two Americans entered in the women’s competition in London.
In the three months since she qualified, Mangold has won a following for her outspokenness, her wit, her athletic capabilities and the ease with which she embraces her tremendous size. Such popularity comes with one prerequisite Carillo smiled: “Her suitors have to be able to lift more than her.”
“I don’t like to be the strong one in a relationship,” Mangold deadpanned. “Guys who proposition you on Facebook want you to be an Amazon woman ... and they’re really small. The way I see it, if you’re 5-7 and weigh 120 pounds, we’re not gonna make it.”
Vern has only heard snippets of his daughter’s interview and said he and his wife are trying to figure out how they’ll watch the show tonight: “We don’t get HBO.”
When it comes to the actual Games, the family — except for older brother, Nick, the Pro Bowl center of the New York Jets — won’t miss Holley’s completion. Thirteen family members are headed to London.
Holley told USA Today that her brother has opted to stay with his teammates in training camp and won’t come to see her compete. Nick confirmed that during an NFL Network appearance, but Jets coach Rex Ryan has tried to convince him otherwise and told reporters he was “shocked” when Mangold turned down his offer to leave camp:
“I know how important our football team is, but there are other things that are equally as important and maybe more important in the big picture of things. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see your sister do something that’s absolutely incredible.”
It might not be a one-shot deal though. Cannella thinks in years to come Holley could snatch 300 pounds and clean and jerk 400 and be one of the greats of all time.
Although she’s considered a long shot to medal in London — no American woman has made the Olympian podium since 2000 — don’t tell her that.
“I want to (medal),” she told Carillo. “No one wants to go to the Olympics and get like eighth. I think the amount of progress I’ve been doing has been insane. If I keep it up, I don’t see why not.”
Her dad agrees, but laughingly admitted there’s one thing he’s sure no one will see:
“No matter what, I don’t see her coach lifting her up and carrying her off the floor.”