Friday, September 3, 2004
BRUSH, Colo. -- The boyfriend of Olympic wrestling silver-medalist
Sara McMann was killed Friday when the Jeep they were in rolled off
the shoulder of Interstate 76 in northeastern Colorado, the Colorado
State Patrol said.
The crash happened about 1:20 p.m., patrol spokesman Master Trooper
Ron Watkins said. The 1997 Jeep Cherokee rolled about two times, and
Steven Blackford, 28, a three-time NCAA All-American wrestler at
Arizona State, was ejected, Watkins said. Blackford was not wearing a
He said McMann was driving and he believed Blackford was in the front
McMann, 23, of Lock Haven, Pa., was hospitalized in Fort Morgan and
has asked that her condition not be released, according to a hospital
employee who refused to give her name. Watkins said she suffered minor
to moderate injuries, but could not elaborate. Investigators believe
she was wearing a seat belt.
Watkins said the accident remained under investigation, but speed may
be a possible cause. He did not know if *** or *** were related.
The crash happened about 10 miles east of Brush, about 90 miles
northeast of Denver.
McMann's parents, Paula and Tucker McMann, told The Express newspaper
in Lock Haven that hospital officials said their daughter was
She won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens in the
138?-pound (63-kg) weight class. She lost the championship match to
rival and training partner Kaori Icho of Japan.
Blackford and McMann were traveling from the U.S. Olympic Training
Center in Colorado Springs to Washington D.C., where he was attending
the Columbus Law School at the Catholic University of America,
according to Gary Abbott of USA Wrestling.
Blackford's 19-year-old sister, Valerie, of Des Moines, Iowa, said the
couple planned to stop there for a Labor Day party with his family
before heading to Washington. Blackford also is survived by his
parents, Steven and Karen, and a 22-year-old brother, John.
"He was the best brother in the world, and everyone remembers him as
being outgoing," Valerie Blackford said.
She said her brother's death has been very *** her mother, who
also lost her father in July.
McMann had dedicated her Olympic performance to her late brother,
Jason, who introduced her to wrestling and was killed five years ago.
A former Lock Haven University football player goes on trial in his
death later this fall.
Blackford was living with Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Arizona, and was very
interested in law, Valerie Blackford said.
"Sara was moving out there to be with him," she said. "They were just
going to grow up and live life, pretty much."
Tricia Saunders, McMann's former teammate and friend, said the couple
had met at her home in Arizona.
"They just fit together," she said. "They were really nice to see
together because they really took care of each other."
She said McMann was e***d to move to Washington, unwind after the
Olympics and possibly attend graduate school.
"Steve was really just someone who had a childlike sense about him,"
Saunders said. "He was a really wonderful guy, who just kind of exuded
that kind of joy."