Wrestler Ellis Coleman takes the "flying squirrel" move to the Olympics
Ellis Coleman celebrates his win over Joe Betterman in the 60 kg Grecco-Roman weight class during the finals of the US Wrestling Olympic Trials at Carver Hawkeye Arena on April 22, 2012 in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
(CBS News) CHICAGO - America is sending some of its best athletes to London next month for the Olympic summer games. One of them is a wrestler with a remarkable story and a special move that you have to see to believe.
Chicago's rugged West Side is where Ellis Coleman's Olympic story began. He was raised along with his brother and sister by his single mother after his father went to prison the first time.
"The only real memory I have about him is when we went to go see him one time and he sold all the TVs in the house and he sold our Playstation for drugs," Coleman said.
Too many West Side stories have sad endings, but Coleman had three things going for him.
One, he had a mother who wouldn't give up.
He also had a coach, Mike Powell, who saw both an athlete and a student.
"He has an energy about him and a charisma for life that is extraordinary," Powell said.
Powell, Coleman said, changed his life -- and saved it. "Everything that I've done, that I've never done before, it was under Coach Powell," he said.
Third, Coleman also had the extraordinary ability to do what one had seen before. A signature move called the "flying squirrel" -- a forward flip take-down -- led to instant fame and a big money offer to fight professionally.
But Coleman said no to the money and kept wrestling. One reason: to make up for something he had not been able to do for his high school coach. In 2009, he came up short in the state championship.
"I came up short my senior year. That was the biggest thing for me, between me and him," Coleman said, choking back tears. "I wanted to win it, for him and for us."
Now, the flying squirrel is going to London. At age 20, Coleman is the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic wrestling team and has the chance to soar on the biggest stage in sports.
Powell said he wasn't proud of Coleman for making it to the Olympics, but for the journey it took him to get there.
"I'm proud of him for who he is," Powell said. "And how far he's come as a human being. He's the hardest working kid I've ever coached."
When asked how he made it so far, Coleman said he was "blessed."
"And there's a little bit of luck, and sacrifice I guess," he added.
A life long tarnished in trouble, now covered in gold -- no matter what happens in London.
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