IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

A heavy task for Shane Hamman

America's best hope for a weightlifting medal is a gentle giant, reports NBC's Roger O'Neil.
Mens Category +105kg
Shane Hamman of the USA competes in the men's over 105 kg category weightlifting competition in Athens on Aug. 25.Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

It's hard to imagine just how much weight Shane Hamman is lifting, until he drops it. Then the ground, quite literally, shakes.

From a skinny Oklahoma eight-year-old who beefed up lifting melons at the family fruit stand, Shane is now a super heavyweight. But don't let that intimidate — he's really just a big pussycat.

The goatee is part of Shane's 'Olympic look.' He hopes it will help end America's 20-year medal drought in Olympic men's weightlifting.

957 pounds is Shane's two-lift personal best. But to get to the medal stand, he thinks he'll have to lift 1,040 pounds at least.

Shane loves two things: weightlifting and eating.

"How do you fall in love with weightlifting?" he asks.  "I don't know, I mean, it's a sport that hurts!"

As for eating, he consumes about 5,000 calories each day.

"I kinda just eat throughout the day. It's like one long meal," he says.

He likes really big burgers.

But what defines this gentle giant of a man is not his strength or 348 pounds of weight.  It's a heart that was touched by the Columbine school shooting tragedy. Shane now makes dozens of motivational speeches a year to kids.

"I wanted to start showing compassion for people. I wanted to make a difference in people's lives," says Shane.

That soft touch can be seen on the golf course too. Golf reminds him that, like weightlifting, strength isn't everything.

"If you don't rely on your technique, you're not going to hit the ball," he says.

If Shane wins a medal in Athens, he says he'll do a back flip, and then go eat a big burger.