•Click here to read more about Olympian Chas Betts.
by Joni Astrup
When Chas Betts wrestles at the Olympics on Aug. 6, his sister, Melissa Roelike of St. Michael, will be there cheering him on.
And in Elk River there will be some cheering going on as well.
For the past 10 years, Roelike has worked as a nurse at the Guardian Angels Care Center in Elk River. There’s widespread interest there in her brother’s Olympic bid.
“In April when he won trials for London, the whole facility knew. They’ve been along for the ride,” Roelike said.
Monday, Aug. 6, has been proclaimed Olympics Day at the nursing home in honor of Betts, according to Recreation Director Ronda Landt.
“We are doing a lot of things in honor of the Olympics and for Chas,” she said.
Besides the designated Olympics Day, they have decorated the facility for the Olympic Games. They also did a torch run with residents in the hallways, complete with the theme music from the Olympics. They are doing Olympic activity games as well.
Landt said she and others have also purchased the Olympic-themed T-shirts that Betts designed.
“We’re all excited for her (Roelike),” Landt said. “I told her ‘I’m so excited for you I can hardly stand it.”’
The Olympic wrestling matches will be streamed live online the day he competes, Roelike said.
In addition, people will be able to watch the wrestling medal matches that afternoon — Monday, Aug. 6 — as NBC plans to air them live, she said.
Betts will compete in the 84-kilogram weight class in Greco-Roman wrestling.
Asked what she sees in her brother that has made him an Olympian, Roelike got tears in her eyes and said, “His drive.”
“I’m just so proud of him — his drive and his determination and his commitment,” she said.
She said her parents, Pete and Pam Betts, took him all over the state and then all over the country as he pursued his wrestling dreams. “When it was time to go, he was ready to go. He wanted to do this. He wanted to succeed in this sport,” Roelike said.
Now age 26, Betts has been wrestling since he was 5. He finished his high school career at St. Michael-Albertville in 2004 as both team and individual state champion.
After high school he went to Northern Michigan University and completed his degree while training at the U.S. Olympic Education Center there. After that, he had the opportunity to be a resident athlete at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. More recently he went overseas for about two months to learn more about Greco-Roman training techniques in countries like Turkey and Bulgaria.
“In February he started a series of tournaments and he just took off,” Roelike said.
Roelike said her brother had his eye on the Olympics in Beijing four years ago but didn’t make the cut. When he qualified for the London games at the Olympic trials in April, it was a big day for his family, friends and supporters.
Roelike will join 11 other Betts supporters in making the trip to London to see him compete in the Olympics. They all will be wearing their Chas Betts T-shirts.
“We’ve been waiting for this day,” Roelike said. “… It’s just the culmination of all of our dreams for him.”
Betts returned home last month for a send-off party thrown by his family and friends.
Roelike described her brother as humble and easy to relate to and said he has been an inspiration for younger athletes.
She said one young gymnast had her mother bring her to the party so she could meet Betts and get some pointers about what it takes to make the Olympic team.
“He’s helping to inspire the youth that this is attainable— from a kid from St. Michael, you can do it,” she said.
Roelike, her husband and 6-year-old son watched the Olympic opening ceremonies at her parents’ home in St. Michael last Friday and were able to spot Betts in the crowd of Olympians.
She described that moment as surreal.
As for his chances of bringing home a medal, Roelike said: “He has the commitment. He has the heart. He has the drive and he has the support —so much support.”