Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

His pride and joy, her Gladiator

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — About the same time that future U.S. Olympic volleyball player Carli Lloyd was born 27 years ago, her uncle was discovered by a talent scout in Southern California.

Galen Tomlinson was invited to try out for a new show called American Gladiators for a chance to be one of the beefed-up, spandex-clad superheroes, taking on mortal contestants in an imaginative series of physical contests.

Tomlinson won a role. He was named "Turbo" and became a cult hero. But the bravest role he played was far off camera: stepping in to help raise Lloyd and mold her into an Olympic athlete.

It is debatable which one is more famous, today's U.S. Olympian or yesterday's American Gladiator. But it is clear how much they mean to each other.

"She understood his belief in her, and it made her believe in herself, and those two went off and conquered the world," Cindy Lloyd, Carli's mother and Tomlinson's half sister, said. "It was awesome to sit back and watch."

The U.S. women's volleyball team is trying to win gold at the Olympics for the first time. Carli Lloyd, often confused for the U.S. soccer star with the same name, is a backup setter. Tomlinson, still gladiator-fit at 55, with streaks of gray in his Superman-styled dark hair, is a big presence in the stands.

"I attribute me being here to him more than anyone else," Lloyd said.

They are practically inseparable. He was her first coach and her constant workout partner. When she moved on to other coaches and left for college, he was still there at every match, sitting in his usual spot, giving nods and signals in a language that only the two of them share.

Lloyd calls him Uncle. But Tomlinson is the only father figure she has ever known.

Lloyd was 4 when her father committed suicide, leaving Cindy to raise three children. Tomlinson, by then a twice-divorced father and a star on American Gladiators, had time on his hands.

Tomlinson and his daughter, then 10, moved in with Cindy and her three children in Bonsall, Calif., north of San Diego. The move was considered temporary, to help Cindy get her life reorganized. Tomlinson never left.

"After a couple of months, it dawned on me, and I said after the kids went to bed, 'Cindy, I want to talk to you,' " Tomlinson said. "I said, 'Everyone's getting really comfortable with this. I think it would be wise for us to either leave now, before they lose another male role model, or we've got to make a commitment that our extracurricular activities get put on hold until the youngest (Carli) graduates high school.' "

Tomlinson and Cindy, who had the same father but different mothers, still live together more than 20 years later. "I can't get rid of him," Cindy said with a laugh.

When Tomlinson's daughter, Kourtney, was in fifth grade, she wanted to play volleyball. Cindy's oldest daughter, Coral, about a year younger, followed. Tomlinson decided he could do a better job than their coaches. He taught himself the intricacies of the game and studied respected coaches at tournaments. When Carli Lloyd started playing a few years later, he was an experienced coach.

It was not always harmonious. The relationship between a child and a parent who also coaches can be fraught with frustration, disappointment and resentment.

"I wouldn't say it was perfect," Lloyd said. "We're both pretty sensitive and stubborn. But it works. I love him, and he loves me, and it works because we want it to."

There have been strains. A combination of stress fractures in her shins and struggles fitting in with the U.S. team, coached by volleyball legend Karch Kiraly, sent Lloyd into a spiral of depression. Lloyd, with Tomlinson's encouragement, had grown up setting with quick movements of her fingers and wrists. The team wanted her to adopt a method with more arm extension, a change of form not unlike asking a pitcher to alter his throwing motion or a basketball player to adjust her shot.

Lloyd struggled. Her standing on the national team dropped over a couple of years, until it looked as if her long-standing Olympic aspirations had evaporated. She was in a kind of funk that Tomlinson had never seen.

"I remember telling her mom: 'I've lost my little girl. She's not the same,' " Tomlinson said.

But Lloyd pulled through over the past year, developing the mental toughness to match the physical toughness she had always had. By last winter in Italy, she seemed to Tomlinson to be her old self, dedicated to trying to make the Olympic roster.

"I'm going to make their decision as hard as I can," she said.

In July, Kiraly named his 12-member team. Three setters, instead of the usual two, made the squad, and Lloyd was one. Kiraly said she represented a new breed of physical setter: fast enough to chase every ball, big enough to block and hit.

Tomlinson cannot help but think that Lloyd would have fit right in on the old TV show.

"She'd have killed it," he said with a television-ready smile. "Killed it."

 
Comments
Brent Honeywell injury could be worst Rays news yet

Brent Honeywell injury could be worst Rays news yet

PORT CHARLOTTE – It may have seemed that things couldn't get worse for the Rays after an opening week of spring training that included the dumping of two veterans to harshly negative reviews including from their own players, the trade of the te...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Lightning nearing end of road-heavy stretch

Lightning nearing end of road-heavy stretch

OTTAWA – The last time the Lightning played in Ottawa, back in early January, it was one of the team's worst games of the season.Coach Jon Cooper delivered a damning opening statement in his post-game press conference – saying "entitlemen...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning not planning to trade from current roster

Lightning not planning to trade from current roster

You can bet there were many Lightning fans that hoped Senators superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson jumped on Tampa Bay's bus post-game Thursday night.Karlsson, 27, Ottawa's two-time Norris Trophy winner, is the biggest prize leading up to Monday's tra...
Updated: 1 hour ago

How the Rays’ DFA of Dickerson paid off, with a reliever and a prospect from Pirates

PORT CHARLOTTE – The Rays' surprising and controversial decision to designate for assignment 2017 All-Star OF/DH Corey Dickerson to prompt a trade paid off Thursday in a deal with the Pirates.Assuming you consider it a good return to get vetera...
Updated: 1 hour ago
USA women’s hockey gives us a night to remember

USA women’s hockey gives us a night to remember

Our team.They're Americans, yes. But they are more than that.They're one of us. Adopted Floridians. Honorary members of Tampa Bay.And they gave us the signature moment of the Winter Olympics.USA! USA! USA!In the greatest moment in American hockey sin...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bucs sign ex-New Hampshire RB Dalton Crossan

Bucs sign ex-New Hampshire RB Dalton Crossan

February signings in the NFL usually face long odds to stick on rosters in the fall, but the Bucs added to their running back depth on Thursday, signing former New Hampshire star Dalton Crossan.Crossan, who turns 24 on Sunday, went to training camp l...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Police: DeSean Jackson’s former Eagles teammate drove truck found wrecked with bullets, marijuana inside

Police: DeSean Jackson’s former Eagles teammate drove truck found wrecked with bullets, marijuana inside

TAMPA  — With no witnesses and no video evidence, Tampa Police have stopped investigating a case from Christmas Eve that had a truck belonging to Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson found wrecked and abandoned in a mall parking lot with hollow-po...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Rays find taker for Corey Dickerson, get Daniel Hudson, prospect from Pirates

Rays find taker for Corey Dickerson, get Daniel Hudson, prospect from Pirates

The Rays found a taker for OF/DH Corey Dickerson, trading him Thursday to the Pirates for veteran reliever Daniel Hudson, minor-league INF Tristan Gray and $1-million cash.Hudson, 30, will compete for a spot in the Rays bullpen, coming off a rou...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Gators’ Larry Scott on Miami, ‘that other school down south’

Gators’ Larry Scott on Miami, ‘that other school down south’

GAINESVILLE — Tight ends coach Larry Scott hasn't even been with the Gators for a month, but he already understands the state's rivalries well.The former Miami interim coach referred to his old program as "that other school down south" during h...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Riverview to host Angela Slater softball tournament this weekend

Riverview to host Angela Slater softball tournament this weekend

Riverview High will host the inaugural Angela Slater Kick-Off Softball Classic, a 16-team tournament that starts Thursday and ends Saturday.The tournament is named in honor of the former Sharks softball coach who died in 2016 after a year-long battle...
Updated: 6 hours ago