Farris charms crowd at weightlifting trials
Conyers' Alford fails in bid for Olympics

ATLANTA - Kendrick Farris may not win a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. No one will be more entertaining.

Farris claimed his first Olympic berth with the top score at the U.S. weightlifting trials Saturday, and he charmed the crowd with his antics after every successful attempt.

He yelled. He strutted. He posed. Finally, he had someone from the side of the stage toss him a bottle, which Farris sipped from and then sat on the edge of the podium until an official made him take it away.

""That was vitamin water,' he said. ""I just wanted to show people what I was drinking. It was like a semi-commercial: "Hey, I like vitamin water. You should try it.'

After locking up a trip to China, Farris came to the interview room holding his 2-year-old son, Khalil, and quickly launched into a story about how weightlifting wasn't his first love.

""I liked table tennis,' he said. ""I think I could have been an Olympian at that. But all these people were saying I should be playing football. That's what led me into weightlifting, and I guess I made the right choice.'

Farris, who trains in Shreveport, La., doesn't play much pingpong anymore. Naturally, his skills on the paddle have suffered.

""Dude, I'm not good at all anymore. It's sad,' Farris said. ""I used to be so good. I think I could have made it. I used to watch "Forrest Gump' and say, "That's what I need to be doing.' That was my goal: to be as good as Forrest Gump.'

Fortunate injury

Weightlifting was a lifesaver to Zach Schluender.

Six years ago, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer, but only after he injured himself during a lift in practice.

""I didn't have very good technique,' said Schluender, who had been lifting about a year at the time. ""When you're new to the sport, you tend to make rookie mistakes.

""But that one saved my life, so I'll take it.'

After striking himself with the bar, he noticed swelling that led him to see a doctor. That's when the cancer diagnosis was made.

""It's a type of cancer that when it gets injured, it actually swells up over time,' Schluender said. ""That made me realize it was there. It had been there a few months and I didn't even know it.'

He underwent surgery and has had no recurrence of the disease since then.

Baseball tribute

The seven newest members of the U.S. Olympic team received another honor before leaving Atlanta.

Melanie Roach, Carissa Gump, Natalie Woolfolk, Cheryl Haworth, Kendrick Farris, Chad Vaughn and Casey Burgener were whisked over to Turner Field to be honored during the Atlanta Braves-Oakland Athletics baseball game.

Local competitor fails to make team

Conyers native Chandler Alford, a 2004 Woodward High School graduate and a senior at Georgia Tech, failed to make the Olympic team.

Alford previously won the Junior National Championship in March 2006. He will now focus on the Collegiate World University Championships, which take place in November in Athens, Greece.