Bakersfield resident honored for 1980 U.S. Olympic team

Posted at 3:29 PM, Aug 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-03 18:29:00-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — This summer marked the 40-year anniversary of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow as many will remember the year the United States boycotted the Summer Games.

That doesn't mean those Olympians that year shouldn't be remembered and honored especially one Bakersfield resident who was part of Americans who made the '80 Olympic team.

For Dan Mello, 40 years later and the 1980 Summer Olympics boycott is still fresh in his mind. Mello would have wrestled for the United State following a career he happened to fall into thanks to his high school football coach in Portland.

“I played football and now the coach there and I was an ornery little guy but you know I just wasn't big enough to be a player. He wanted to, he asked me, he was a wrestling coach and he asked me to go out for the freshman wrestling team and I, I said you know I respected him, I said sure I'll try it, as soon as I stepped on the mat, history. It was my sport," Dan Mello, 1980 United States Olympian said.

The history continued as Mello would eventually move to Bakersfield and join the Marines which led him to reach his Olympic dreams. His wrestling career would earn him a spot on the 1980 team and he'd continue to prepare to compete for his country that year right up until the United States' boycott became official.

"I trained, every day until my weight class started at the Olympics in Moscow, because for some reason as I was just naive I just thought, somebody's gonna send me over there and give me my opportunity, you know, but I was wrong. It's the moment you figure out that life isn't always going to be fair, that you can't control it, you can do up to that point I had done everything in my power I'd made all the choices to be where I wanted to be in how I wanted to be, to get there everything. And all of a sudden, I had no choice," Mello said.

He'd serve as an Olympic alternate two times and coached in the '96 Olympic games but he never got that chance to compete for an Olympic medal. But, he still reached a goal that many athletes always hope to achieve in their careers.

"People would say at times, 'Well, you're not really an Olympian because he didn't go.' In some ways that's correct I did not get to go and I did not get to compete, but I did make that team, I did my part," Mello said.

Something nobody can take away from him along with his memorabilia. And something he'll be able to celebrate for many more decades to come.