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December 13, 2012

Host: José Cárdenas

Author: Anthony Robles

  |   Video
  • Former ASU Sun Devil and NCAA wrestling champion Anthony Robles talks about his new book "UNSTOPPABLE- From Underdog to Undefeated: How I Became a Champion".

    Visit his website
  • Anthony Robles - Author
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: robles, talk, author,

View Transcript
se Cardenas: Anthony Robles is a living example of determination and perseverance to never give up. He won the 2010-2011 NCAA individual wrestling championship, is a three-time all-American athlete, a hall Of famer, and the 2011 Recipient of the Jimmy V Award for perseverance at the Espy's. Joining me tonight is Anthony Robles. Welcome back to "Horizonte." You were on a little over a year ago. This is before the book but after your remarkable Victories and championship at the NCAA. You had been, though, on the Espy's already. And I kind of wanted to start there with the poem you read at the end of that presentation. We are going to roll it on the screen because it is also part of your book. We will bring that up on the screen now to have you -- I think this was at the end of your presentation.

Anthony Robles: This is my message. Every soul who comes to earth with a leg or two at birth must wrestle his opponents knowing it is not what is, it is what can be that measures worth. Make it hard, just make it possible, and through pain I'll not complain, my spirit is unconquerable, fearless I will face each foe -- through blood, sweat, and tears, I am unstoppable. Thank you.

Jose Cardenas: And that is the essence of the book.

Anthony Robles: It is. And really that was my main purpose of writing the book. Wanted to put all of my life challenges in a form where someone could read it and maybe if they are going through similar challenges it will help inspire them that they --

Jose Cardenas: You inspired quite a few people by the book itself. Condoleezza Rice, Ladamien Tomlinson, and an introduction by Jay Leno.

Anthony Robles: Such an amazing honor to have those people endorsing my book. Jay Leno --
Jose Cardenas: he introduced you.

Anthony Robles: He helped to settle me down a little bit. He said relax, have fun with it. We hit off a friendship. Amazing honor to have him right the forward in my book. So --

Jose Cardenas: We said the poem is the essence of the theme of the book. Another big part of the book is your mom. I mean, in many ways this is her story. And I know you -- the two of you are very close. There is some pictures that we have of you with her. Tell us about it.

Anthony Robles: My mom is very special to me. She had me when I was 16 years old. No idea I would be born missing my leg. For quite awhile she was a single parent. That is a tough situation to be in. A young mom, kid missing his leg.

Jose Cardenas: She still looks very young.

Anthony Robles: I get that a lot. She pass as my sister all of the time. A special lady, very self-less, and she always raised me to where I believe I can do anything I can set my mind to. I didn't think I had a missing limb an a handicap to me. I didn't think I was disabled.

Jose Cardenas: In the book, you talk about an incident very early in your life, her parents, your grandparents, thought she was not up to the job of taking care of a child because she didn't seem to fully appreciate what that meant and they offered to raise you, adopt you, and she said no.

Anthony Robles: I think that was really the wake-up call for my moms. When my grandparents, God bless them, offered to raise me. That is when my mom sat down, I'm a mom, it is time to be a mom. She jumped into it 100%. I was blessed with a great mom. My number one fan. My main support system. Just to have her there always encouraging me, never second-guessing me or causing me to second-guess myself, I couldn't ask for more.

Jose Cardenas: It is clear from the book, as difficult as some of the situations for you, they were pretty tough on her, too. How she felt when she would be out with you in public. You mentioned one incident, there is a wrestling match when you are very young and a woman in the stands laughing at you.

Anthony Robles: My mom talks about that. That is another interesting part of the book. I got to see and hear my mom's perspective about things we went through. She was very protective, and at the same time she knew that -- she needed to let me go out on my own and experience those times with heartache and failure because it would make me stronger. All along the way she was supporting me. You can make it through. You have to do it. You have to figure it out on your own but you can make it and I am here for you.

Jose Cardenas: Another part of the book, you discussed the efforts to give you a prosthetic leg, and how that didn't work out.

Anthony Robles: I just remember, I was about five years old, and the technology wasn't nearly what it is today. And so it was just a big heavy piece of wood. Whenever I put it on, I could barely move around and I hated it. Whenever my mom wasn't looking I would try to take it off and hide it and hope that she would forget. She kind of eventually left it up to me. I chose the crutches. It was better for me. Because of wrestling, it started to build my upper body for more my sport.

Jose Cardenas: Did it make you stand out more in school, you were the kid with only one leg?

Anthony Robles: It definitely did. I remember the sound that my crutches used to make, clicking noise. I was embarrassed by it. I tried to walk around real quiet. After awhile I didn't care anymore. This is who I was, I couldn't change it and I am going to be proud of who I am. Because of the positive surrounding at home, it made it that much easier. Not to say I didn't go through the tough times, teasing, and bullying, but I was strong because of my family and because of my mom.

Jose Cardenas: And you also insisted on really no special consideration. You talk in the book about racing on the crutches, running with the rest of the team. Going uphills, college wrestling coach said you didn't have to do it but you insisted on doing it anyway.

Anthony Robles: Absolutely. It was always a thing to where I wanted to show my teammates that I could do anything that they could do. I didn't want to take the easy way out and earn their respect. To do that I had to be sweating and bleeding alongside of them. We had to run a few miles with a 45 pound plate strapped to our back. Coach said I didn't have to. I wanted to show them I am there with you. I can do this. I can figure out a way. That was how I was raised. Just figure out a way to get thing done.

Jose Cardenas: So much of the become is about relationships. We have talked about your relationship with your mom. You had a difficult relationship with your stepdad.

Anthony Robles: I did. I love my stepdad and I know he loves me, too. A lot of struggles. Him coming and going into my life and my mom's life and just abandoning her. It was a tough time. It made me a stronger person. I know when I have my family what I don't want to do. I did learn things as well. I had a great mom, three little brothers and a sister and a high school coach who was a father figure to me as well.

Jose Cardenas: You had some great friends on the teams who really helped you develop as a person and as a wrestler.

Anthony Robles: Absolutely. A good friend of mine in high school, Chris, state champion, he was the first guy there helping me in my goal of becoming a champion. He treated me like a little brother and showed me how to work hard and how to get to that next level. We're still great friends today. We train together. I couldn't have gotten to college and won that championship without him.

Jose Cardenas: You talked a little bit about your high school coach. He sounds like such a unique individual. You mention in the book one of the things he did which was to tie his legs together so that he could have a sense for what it was like for you to wrestle and be able to teach you how to wrestle with just one leg.

Anthony Robles: Yeah, he was awesome. It was pretty neat because from day one when I walked into the wrestling room, he treated me like I was a state champion. I wasn't some poor kid missing his leg. He helped me believe in my abilities. You have your strengths. We have to figure out what those are and we will build a style to compliment that. He would do things like that, figure out how I wrestle -- we build something unique that people had never seen before and it worked to my advantage. He was a father figure than a coach. He would talk to me. How are you doing in school? We need to get you in college. This is what you need to be doing. I learned so much about life from him and I will be forever grateful.

Jose Cardenas: In terms of your wrestling technique, there is a lot of stuff in the book about different key crucial matches during your career, high school, college. Part of it was the development of hamstrings.

Anthony Robles: It was, for my style, he said you have to use your upper body. You have to be able to control guys and to do that you need good grip strength, good hand strength. He would design unique workouts for me to do. A tennis ball, squeezing it in each hand. Hang from a pull up guard for six minutes to build up the strength in my arms. Little things like that slowly started to improve my strength. I would rip newspapers and crumble them back up. It built me up and it worked for our style and now I actually got to the point where people feared my grip strength. Something that they couldn't get away from.

Jose Cardenas: You had people complaining about you're having just one leg and the upper body strength that you had as being an advantage to you. And I think there is a section in the book where you talk about Jim making fun of those people. Maybe you can recreate that scene.

Anthony Robles: Yeah Jim Rome--

Jose Cardenas: Talking about the sportscaster.

Anthony Robles: He was just saying how could a kid with one leg have an advantage? That doesn't make sense. He is missing a leg. He has one less limb, how could that be an advantage? It was funny, when I started wrestling, no one saw it as an advantage. They felt sorry for me, and didn't think I could compete with everybody else. As I started to progress, it seemed like a target was growing on my back, people were trying to find reasons to pick at me. It discouraged me but in a way I felt I was accomplishing my goal. I did not want to be the one-legged wrestler or the handicap wrestler, but I just wanted to be the best, the champion, and people were starting to see me as that and they were tying to pick at it.

Jose Cardenas: The book talks about triumphing in many instances over people who had beaten you before. And one of those, I think, was the -- ultimately the NCAA championship match where you came out on top.

Anthony Robles: And that was a really fulfilling match for me. My junior season, I was upset in the quarter finals. The guy who beat me went on to the finals and lost to the eventual national champion. I remember sitting there with tears in my eyes watching them wrestle each other, I should be there. That should be my title. I ripped the newspaper article out of the national champ and put it in my locker. I have to train to beat him today to get better and to have that opportunity to wrestle him and kind of get some payback and come out with this ring it was a perfect ending, a dream come true for me. Perfect ending for me.

Jose Cardenas: The book, the cover picture was taken by Randy Johnson, former star of the Diamondbacks and the Yankees. What led you to write the book?

Anthony Robles: Well, for me it was an amazing opportunity after I won nationals. I had gotten into motivational speaking, but when you are speaking, you only talk for about 45 minutes. I couldn't really share my whole life story and put it out there. So, the book was a great way for me -- my whole life story, things that I was uncomfortable, my weaknesses, times when I did fail and did fall down, and I wanted to put that out there so that people could see you don't have to have the perfect life. Things don't have to always be easy for you to get out on top in the end. You can't let the challenge become an excuse. I was hoping that by putting everything out there, it could help inspire someone, and if it changes one person's life for the better, that makes it all worth it.

Jose Cardenas: I understand the book came out in September and it is heading towards the best seller list.

Anthony Robles: It has been an amazing journey. 6 1/2 week book tour and it should be hitting some best seller lists soon.

Jose Cardenas: And a Movie is in the works.

Anthony Robles: It is in the works. Negotiating the final things. They keep asking me who I want it play myself, and I tell them Denzel. But they seem to think he is a little too old for me.

Jose Cardenas: He is too old. I'm sure he would admit it. Is your career as a wrestler over?

Anthony Robles: I'm not sure just yet. Focusing on my career and still training, definitely missing the competition. Looking at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil as a possibility, but I will wait until things settle down with the movie and things and make a decision then. I don't want to jump back in unless it is 100%.

Jose Cardenas: Congratulations on the book, good luck on the movie, and thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." Pleasure to have you here.

Anthony Robles: Thank you for having me.

Get to Know: Fernanda Santos

  |   Video
  • Get to Know: Fernanda Santos, a journalist covering Arizona and New Mexico as the Phoenix Bureau Chief for The New York Times.
  • Fernanda Santos - Phoenix Bureau Chief, The New York Times
Category: Government   |   Keywords: journalism, journalists, new york times, ,

View Transcript
Fernanda Santos: Fernanda Santos is a journalist who covers Arizona and New Mexico as Phoenix bureau chief for the "New York Times." She was one of the speakers for the series which brings prominent media and communication professionals to ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Join me tonight as we get to know Fernanda Santos. Welcome to "Horizonte" and welcome to Arizona. Tell us about what you told the students a few weeks ago.

Fernanda Santos: I told them about the experience of being an immigrant, which is who I am, covering this country and covering a lot of stories about immigration, and to me I think what this experience had taught me the most is the fact that immigrants many times come to this country and they think about assimilating wiping out their identity and becoming American except that we forget that this country, the definition of American is a very flexible, elastic definition, and as I worked as a journalist, as I guess I got older and more mature, wiser maybe, I began to understand that being who I am and being -- bringing my immigrant heritage to what I did and how I did things was what made me special. So, my message to them was mostly, you know, whether you are an immigrant or not, there is always something that makes you special and that is how people should try to be, not try to be like somebody else.

Jose Cardenas: You came to the country as a college student and it was after that that you got into journalism.

Fernanda Santos: Uh-hmm.

Jose Cardenas: How did you come to work for the "New York Times"?

Fernanda Santos: Well, I was a reporter in Rio de Janeiro, which is where I grew up, grew up in Rio, came here to go to graduate school and never really wanted to stay. It was never part of my plan. As I was in graduate school, I found out that I could stay a year with a work permit and try my hand at journalism in this country, I thought why not? Maybe I can get a job here and go to Brazil and get a job there. I started small. I got my first job at a newspaper in Western Massachusetts, the republican in Springfield. And from there, to Lawrence, Massachusetts, daily news in New York, and it was one of those things where the stars aligned at the right time. I think also a lot of -- about getting to the "Times" has to do with timing. I think I was the right person at the right time to show up at their door and also I -- I worked really hard. I mean, I really -- I still do, and I really worked hard. I clearly remember talking to a recruiter from the times, first person I got to talk to, and I worked at the daily news at the time, a tabloid newspaper, and she said, you know, we like you. We think you're great. You have a lot of good things to add and we don't know if you can write. What she was saying they were not sure if I could write like a times journalist would write, which is different than a daily news would write – those were two different formats. I took a big gamble. I applied for a fellowship overseas and I got it. I Quit my job at the daily news and I went and crossed my fingers and everything worked out and I got hired after a few months of working at "people" magazine.

Jose Cardenas: At the Times you covered a variety of topics, education, crime, politics, we have a picture of you with mayor Bloomberg.

Fernanda Santos: I think I was eight or seven months pregnant maybe in that picture.

Jose Cardenas: Was politics a particular aspect of your job in New York that was I assume of great interest?

Fernanda Santos: It is interesting, because my biggest interest in journalism are stories driven by people. What I found about covering city hall as a beat, you know, when you are there all of the time, we had a bureau inside city hall, we were always around with me and two other reporters around the mayor or city council, was that it got to a point that I felt I was losing a connection with the world, with the city around me. I was hearing all of these politicians talk about all of these things but I really wasn't understanding to the same level that I felt that I understood before how the people out there perceive whatever policies they were proposing or laws they were signing, etc. It was a very interesting experience. I had never really covered politics in this country. The Bloomberg administration is a very interesting one. I was there for the whole battle for the third term. He changed a lot so that he could run for the third term and he won. He is still in office. But it wasn't the most rewarding thing I ever did from a personal standpoint and I think a lot about my job is not only a professional reward, but also a personal reward. I think that --

Jose Cardenas: What would you say has been the most rewarding aspect in terms of the topics that you have covered?

Fernanda Santos: I don't think there is one specific thing that I can say a crime is my favorite topic or social issues or child welfare or immigration -- I think that the stories that have satisfied me the most are the stories that have given me the opportunity to talk to people and go to places that I never thought I would be or people I never thought I would meet, you know. I find that my job allows me to learn every day. Be it, you know, in a sentencing in federal court, which is what I did on Wednesday, or a, you know, spending time with a woman cooking tamales in her kitchen, which is what I did on Sunday. There is always something to be learned. That is what I think is so cool about it.

Jose Cardenas: You talked about going places may have not thought you would be at or doing things -- we have a picture of you in Columbia, I assume these are soldiers --

Fernanda Santos: They are community police officers.

Jose Cardenas: What was the focus of the story there?

Fernanda Santos: This was part of my fellowship. I wanted a short-term fellowship and a reporting fellowship. I didn't want to just go and study something. I wanted to actually report on it. I had to be very intrigued about the 50% decline in the violent crime rate in Columbia over the course of 10 years, the perception of the violent city because of the drug battles and -- so, you know, I went there and I ended up spending a lot of time in this place where this picture where this picture was taken. More than a million people live there. A lot of them, most of them are very poor people, and Colombia -- they had started this community policing program, which was a way to bring people closer to police officers and get them to trust the police. There was a big issue of trust. And I thought it was a very counterintuitive idea to get people who always feared the police to work cooperatively with them, and putting these police officers, walking the beat in perhaps one of the most violent parts of the city. So, I just kind of hung out with them for awhile and walked around and got to see places that many Colombians have never seen.

Jose Cardenas: You have been in Arizona since April of this year?

Fernanda Santos: Yes.

Jose Cardenas: Succeeding mark Lacy, the first person from the "New York Times" to be a bureau chief here in Arizona. He made a comment at a forum about a year or so ago about Arizona being in the news a lot. And that being the reason why the "New York Times" is here. Since you have been here, you have covered a tremendous variety of topics, from car washes to raise moneys for various causes including sadly funerals, to the ethic studies issues in Tucson, recent elections. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of course. Is the range of issues what you expected it to be?

Fernanda Santos: It is what I always dreamed it to be. Because the thing that always was intriguing to me about Arizona was that, you know, it can't just be all about -- crazy politics. There has to be more to this state. What I have found coming here is that we should have had somebody here earlier. There is obviously a lot that goes on here that is either so unique to this state that makes it incredibly interesting for the "New York Times" readership or reflective of issues or situations in other parts of the country that make it a perfect place in which to base a story.

Jose Cardenas: We have one other picture I want to get on before the interview ends of one of those experiences. This is you in -- climbing a water tower in Mexico.

Fernanda Santos: Yes, I was visiting some border towns. What was clear to me, American side, small business districts on the American side suffering a lot from the tight enforcement because for a long time they had relied on Mexican customers crossing the border to shop. And in this specific case, I was in Douglas, Arizona, and the town on the other side -- where this is very, very real, and as a matter of fact, the mayor of Douglas, small business owner who is struggling, a family business that has been there for generations. I wanted to have a sense of really how connected these two cities were. Of course everything is very flat in terms of the housing. Two-story homes at most, and on the American side, there wasn't really anything --

Jose Cardenas: Mexican side they made you climb the water tower--

Fernanda Santos: I asked to climb the water tower. They said sure, go ahead and I did and got a great view.

Jose Cardenas: There is so much to talk about. I'm sure we will have you back on the show to talk about some of the other articles that I know you are working on. We are out of time sadly for now. Thank you so much

Fernanda Santos: Thank you.

Jose Cardenas: That is our show for this Thursday evening. For all of us here at "Horizonte," I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good night.