The moment of failure is embedded in Sam Maxwell's mind. He was the No. 1 ranked weightlifter in America. He was going to represent the country at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea.
"All I had to do was show up for the Olympic Trials in Atlanta, and I was going to realize my lifelong dream of going to the Olympics," says Maxwell, a Dain Rauscher broker in Seattle.
Well, Maxwell showed up, but he had one of the worst performances of his career, eliminating him from the team.
"I was crushed," he says. "I had always dreamed of going to the Olympics, and that was my chance. But I had a terrible day, and it was the end of my career."
Maxwell continued to lift at the gym with his buddies, never figuring he'd get the opportunity to go to the Olympics again.
He was wrong.
Maxwell was at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, not as an athlete but as a weightlifting analyst for NBC's broadcast team.
"Even though I wasn't in the competition myself, I really had the best of both worlds," he says. "I got to watch my favorite sport, hang out with the top athletes in the world, and I got paid for it."
Maxwell, 36, was one of the world's best junior lifters in the 1980s. His 440-pound lift as a 198-pound teenager in 1984 is an American record. It has not been broken. He was also a member of the U.S. World Championship team in 1983, 1984 and 1989.
In 1996 when the Olympic Trials for weightlifting were in Atlanta, Maxwell went to watch. He met Phil Simms, a former New York Giants quarterback who became an NBC football announcer and the network's Olympic weightlifting analyst.
"They always stuck some guy in there to announce who wasn't a lifter," Maxwell says. "So I decided it was time that I throw my hat in the ring. I always wanted to do it, and I always thought I could do a better job than anyone who was doing it."
So Maxwell, who does market reports on Seattle radio and TV, as well as monthly updates for CNN, sent a demo tape to NBC producer David Neal.
Ironically, when Neal was in Sydney inspecting Olympic venues prior to the games, he flipped on the TV in his hotel room to check out the market, and there was Maxwell. Neal liked what he saw and gave him the job.
"Being an analyst gave me the opportunity to talk about the sport and explain it in layman's terms so everyone could understand how tough and demanding it is," Maxwell says. "People just don't understand the speed and explosive power weightlifting takes, and how amazing these athletes are."