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Padecky: Byron Craighead takes the adventurous path to Sochi

  • Retired SRJC trainer Byron Craighead with snowboarder Shaun White at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. (BYRON CRAIGHEAD)

Byron Craighead, the Santa Rosa JC legend on so many levels, is going to the Sochi Winter Olympics as a certified athletic trainer for USA Bobsled. That sounds cool and I can't wait to tell you about it.

But after I tell you about the cattle drive.

Two weeks ago, Craighead was a wrangler on an Idaho cattle drive. He and five other cowboys pushed, prodded and guided 300 head 40 miles for 3 days. Craighead fell off his horse once and shrugged.

“I don't like to be cooped up,” said the man who was the first certified athletic trainer at a California community college.

I really want to tell you about the Sochi thing.

But after I tell you about Craighead riding that bucking bronco.

Years ago, and for four summers, Craighead was the athletic trainer on the professional rodeo circuit. He asked a professional rodeo rider, David Olds, if he could ride one of his steeds in professional competition. Olds first put Craighead on a saddle over a bale of hay, showed him the grip, the expected motion of the animal. Olds then put Craighead on a bucking machine before he allowed Craighead to ride a live animal.

“There's a picture of me at the rodeo upside down, my right hand barely holding onto the stirrup, my feet are up in the air, my head is pointed to the ground, just a fraction of a second before the horse threw me,” said Craighead, inducted into the SRJC Hall of Fame in 2012. “I love that picture.”

How long did Craighead stay on the horse?

“Apparently not long enough.”

I do want to tell you how Craighead landed the Sochi gig.

But after I tell you about Craighead and the headlocks.

For four years in the early '90s, Craighead was a trainer for USA Wrestling. Curious he was, on the sport, on the athletic ability, on what kind of stamina it would take to wrestle. He always had heard of the stellar fitness of elite wrestlers. His curiosity large, his 170-pound body small, Craighead wanted to wrestle the heavyweights.

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