By Ron Bush
Deputy Sports Editor
It's been a busy but uplifting year for Henry Woodard.
He's in Peru for World University competition after being on the winning United States team and finishing No. 2 overall in two weightlifting meets June 29-July 3 in Sicily.
Woodard, 20, is representing the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in Peru although he won't be enrolled this semester. The 2006 Boyd-Buchanan School graduate and former Buccaneers football player does plan to make his first visit home since May after this competition, his sixth national or international meet of 2007.
Except for those, he's been in Colorado Springs working out of the U.S. Olympic Training Center since attending UTC in the spring. Gold medalist in two national meets in the spring -- for 20-under lifters and for collegians -- he was the silver medalist at 77 kilograms (169 pounds) in the USA Weightlifting overall nationals and is ranked third in his weight class nationally.
"A guy who was in the Olympics in 2004 wasn't at the senior nationals because he was hurt," Woodard said, "and another guy failed a drug test. We may get to take only four (total U.S. lifters) to the Olympics -- maybe five, depending on how we do as a team at the world championships in September -- and two may be from my weight class. But I'm going to have to pass up at least one of those guys ranked ahead of me."
The qualifying meets for the U.S. team going to Beijing are the 2008 senior nationals and the Olympic trials.
Woodard was playing football for Hardin-Simmons University in Texas last fall but quit during the season to concentrate on weightlifting. He played in one game and caught two passes, one for a 20-yard touchdown.
"I just realized I had a better future in weightlifting," Woodard said last week from Colorado. "Being a 5-9, 170-pound receiver at a Division III school, I wasn't going anywhere in football. And I had a chance to go to the Olympics in weightlifting."
As he developed into a nationally competitive junior lifter under Steve Fauer of Tennessee Speed and Strength out of John A. Patten Recreation Center, Woodard skipped his junior football season at Boyd-Buchanan but played again as a senior.
Now it's all weightlifting and three, maybe four, tries at Olympic glory.
"Usually weightlifters peak out at about 28 or 29," Woodard said. "And for sure once you reach 31 or 32, you're not really going to make any gains. That's when you see most of the guys retire."
He can take up to six hours of classes at the University of Colorado while training at the U.S. Olympic center, and he intends to get a college degree. He changed his major in the spring from business to health sciences with a concentration on sports conditioning and training, and he wants to coach.
Obviously a big influence on him has been Fauer, who was the men's team coach in Sicily. His eight U.S. Junior International lifters were divided into four teams, and they finished first through third and fifth at Caltanissetta and first through fourth at Palermo. Woodard was on the first-place team both places and was second in individual points to a Bulgarian.
"You scored points based on your body weight and how much weight you lifted in the snatch and clean-and-jerk," Fauer said. "Henry was the best American.
"He was torn between football and weightlifting. He loved both sports and thought he could be a good football player, but he wanted to be great in something, and that would be weightlifting. Since he came back here last fall, he's really made progress and he's at peace with himself."
E-mail Ron Bush at email@example.com