I love the Olympics, have I mentioned that? I mean not just being an Olympian, but being a fan! Track and field has always been my favorite Olympic event to watch (aside from BMX of course). Michael Johnson and Marion Jones became idols of mine watching the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Their confidence and prowess performing in front of millions inspires me to this day. Ill never forget the feeling I had watching them win their Gold medals and breaking records hoping that one day I could be like them… On a bike… Minus the doping (Marion). Needless to say the last four years training at the OTC in Chula Vista has only deepened my love for the sport as I’ve gotten to know many of those phenomenal track athletes. It’s been an amazing four years working alongside them to achieve the same goal. One journey, one team. That’s truly been my favorite part about this Olympic experience thus far, the incredible people I’ve met and lasting friendships that have spawned out of it.
So yea, I’m pretty into watching T&F meets, especially trials which means ive been glued to the TV the last few days watching my homies compete. So awesome to see Alice Schmidt killing it in the 800, Jess Cosby placing third in the hammer, and I shed tears of joy as I screamed my little buddy Amy Hastings down the home stretch to her epic win in the 10,000m. Side note: If you asked me 5 years ago if I would ever spend 30min watching girls run 26 laps around a track I would have scoffed at the idea, but knowing all that Amy has been through these last few years and how much I love her as a friend you couldn’t make me stop watching. I’ve never seen so much determination and willpower displayed on anyone’s face like I saw on hers down those last 200m.
The TV coverage wasn’t enough for me though, this year it meant something for me to come watch one of the most amazing women I have ever met compete. Melinda Owen is not only a phenomenal vaulter, but one of the strongest women I know (literally and figuratively) she also happens to have a massive heart and spirit. We first met back in ’08, but it’s really been over the last year and a half that we’ve become inseparable buddies. We’ve been through the highs and lows of injury and competition together, often at the same time, and side by side through the strain of days away from the men we love and our homes. She’s kept me sane thought the last year of this Olympic journey and she’s been a big part of me making the team. As her roommate I’ve seen her day in day out work so hard through the pain in her foot, overcoming all odds stacked against her to chase her Olympic dream with a positive attitude. There was no way after going through all that we have over the last year that I was going to miss her vault at trials, so I booked a day trip ticket to Eugene yesterday to experience it live.
How cool to finally be at Hayward Field in person, to feel the electricity and excitement in the atmosphere. The TV cant bring that home. The crowd totally gets into it, they love their track heroes. Nike came through big with VIP tickets for me so I had a front row seat to watch women’s pole vault, men’s long jump, 400m men and women, discus, shot, and the mens 100m. I feel so lucky to have experienced some of the greatest sporting events and athletes in the world, sitting across from Ashton Eaton nonetheless–who just happened to break the World record in the decathlon the day before.
Because of rain the vault prelims got cancelled so they started the field 27 girls deep and set the starting standard high so it didn’t take long to weed out some of the lower echelon. Mel looked good through 4.40, she was charging hard, looked like she was dialing in her form on the pole, I was sure on her third attempt she was over, but right as she planted the pole ripped out of her hands and she landed flat on her back. Such a freak accident, and such a bad time for it to happen. My heart instantly broke for her. I felt that crushing despair that only someone who sees their Olympic dream slip through their fingers could possibly understand. That amount of emotion and loss is unreal, I remember all to well what it was like for me in ’08 and I felt it with her all over again. I have no doubts that she will rise out of this stronger than ever, but such a tough thing to handle. The Olympics wouldn’t be the Olympics if everyone could go, but there’s just some people that are made of the stuff that deserves to be there and she’s one of them.
It was pretty impossible for me to hold my composure after she went out and I struggled to even watch the rest of the competition. That is until I realized that another CVOTC athlete was about to punch her ticket to London. Becky Holliday had the meet of her life, I haven’t gotten to know her as well or seen her vault as much as Mel, but she was consistent over each bar and it was clear that she had found her groove out there. She ended up 2nd to the American record holder Jen Suhr and will be joining her boyfriend Timmy Hornsby a (Chula kayaker who recently qualified) in London. Happy for the little couple, he was sending me some pretty elated texts from his training camp in Canada.
I didn’t personally know any of the throwers competing that day so I kind of checked out on that bit. It seemed all the favorites were going. Long jump was pretty exciting as the last jumper Goodwin, who is still a senior at Texas, stomped the competition and set a lifetime best. My interpretation of the 400 is the biggest burn around the track. An all out sprint for the entire distance of the track to see who dies first towards the finish. We as bmxers race about that same length of time 35-40″ but we sure aren’t pedaling at a full sprint for that amount of time. Favorites Sanya Richards-Ross and La Shawn Merritt took the big wins as expected, and ran faster I think than the fans expected because and the crowd went nuts when world leading times were posted for both.
And then there was the 100meter. Always a favorite of mine, but even more impressive to see how fast those guys go in real time. It must be crazy for those dudes to warm up all day long to race 10 seconds. Twice, 2hrs apart. There was lots of drama being discussed in the tent area about the women’s 100 from the previous day and the dead heat for 3rd place. How is that even possible to have a dead even heat with photo finishes and sensors? It happened though, Latest rumors are they will have a race off or coin toss. I cannot imagine a coin toss deciding if your on the Olympic team or not. Anyway so Gatlin, Gay, and Dix looked good in the semis and were favorites going in. Gatlin ran away with it, literally. 9.80 into a headwind is pretty dec. I heard that he just came off a 4yr ban for saucing, bet USADA checks his pee pee really good tonight. Gay followed by underdog Ryan Baily will join him in London.
An emotional day for sure but an awesome experience. It definitely put things in perspective for me as I watched a small handful of athletes be crowned Olympians while the vast majority left the stadium with their heads down, forced to wait another four years for one more chance. I feel so humbled and lucky to have made the team and Im more determined than ever to represent the red, white, and blue with honor in London.