Mary Wineberg is a track and field athlete whose life is filled with love, success, and joy.
She found love with her college sweetheart, Chris Wineberg, who she married in 2006.
She found success in Beijing in 2008 when she stood alongside her teammates and accepted the Olympic gold medal in the 4x400m relay.
And she found joy in 2009 with the birth of her daughter Brooklyn.
But life is rarely a perfect package with a neat bow on top. And Mary Wineberg’s life is no exception.
With her eyes toward the London Olympic Games this year, Mary is balancing a number of important priorities and some new challenges.
Being an Athlete and a Mom
While Brooklyn is a blessing for Mary and Chris, Brooklyn’s needs come first, and those needs can impact Mary’s ability to get the proper amount of rest and recovery. “My schedule is much different than 4 years ago, and I have to admit that in the beginning getting that good sleep was hard. I have always been one who doesn’t need a lot of sleep, but to train at the level I needed to, I had to make myself get more sleep. I remember being sluggish on the track and even being prone to small injuries.”
Mary’s ability to train, rest, and recover has improved significantly now that Brooklyn is two and a half. “My husband is a huge help and we now have a schedule and things are a lot easier. To help with making sure I get the right amount of sleep Chris [also her coach] has given me a bedtime of 11pm which I usually hit. And I do get time to train while Brooklyn is at daycare. I am at ease knowing she is cared for.”
In addition to her full-timer roles of wife, athlete, and mother, Mary has embraced a new responsibility, that of primary caregiver for her grandmother, Athens Danner. It turns out that when Mary was a child, Athens adopted and raised Mary as her daughter. Mary says, “She is my mom.”
“Two years ago on New Year’s Eve my mom [Athens Danner] was rushed to the hospital with what we thought were flu like symptoms. To our surprise, she was diagnosed with drastic kidney failure and things weren’t looking good. I prayed and ask God to keep her safe and to help in treating her with this sudden disease.”
But, the days in the hospital turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months. At one point, the doctors told Mary that her mother’s body was failing.
“I spent hours and hours at the hospital and started to feel hopeless, but I am happy that I didn’t give up hope and neither did she. She fought and fought and finally the doctors were able to get things under control.”
After a three month struggle, Mary’s mother was released from the hospital and entered a nursing home, a place that would provide the education and assistance in dealing with a new reality, dialysis.
“Anyone who knows anybody on dialysis knows that it is a lot and the person enduring this procedure three times a week for the rest of the life has to be open to the new change.”
However, Mary and Chris knew that they could do more to help. They wanted to make dealing with dialysis as easy as possible. “We moved my mom across the street from us and wow that helped out tremendously. She was able to be 30 seconds from us and her new granddaughter. Not only did this uplift her spirits but it made her want to fight through this disease.”
Mary typically spends some time every day helping her mom with cooking, cleaning and assisting with anything else that may need to be done. And fulfilling this responsibility is enriching the lives of the entire family.
“My mom is doing well, dialysis is still going and she is excited about me training for the 2012 London Olympics. She has always told me that I was a godsend to her and she doesn’t know where she would be without me.”
Preparing for the 2012 Olympics
Most every day, Mary and Chris can be found at the track on the campus of the University of Cincinnati or competing in meets that lead up to the 2012 Olympics.
“In terms of readiness, I am getting there. I was at my best in 2008, and yes I had a child, but I am focused on gaining my world status back, going after another medal and securing a spot on the Olympic team.”
For Mary, making the Olympic team in 2008 was a dream come true, one that she would never have foreseen when she was growing up. Mary recalls, “In high school and college, I wasn’t as well-known as many of my competitors. I was just a girl who just didn’t know but was destined for greatness in the Olympics. It was meant to be and I feel that the Lord will bless me again.”
This year, Mary will attempt to qualify for both the 400 meters as well as the 4×400 meter relay. “At my first Olympic showing I only made it to the semifinal of the 400, and I this time I want to be in the final. Once you are in the final, anything can happen.”
In order to focus her energies on training, Mary receives support from a primary sponsor, the historic New York Athletic Club.
According to Curt Clausen from the New York Athletic Club, “While it was Mary’s gold medal credentials and potential that attracted the New York Athletic Club, we also appreciated her ties to New York City [Mary was born in Brooklyn and named her daughter after her birthplace]. The New York Athletic Club is proud to have Mary representing the club and looks forward to her New York City NYAC debut in the Millrose Games 400m this Saturday night.”
When asked about the possibility of taking Brooklyn to London, Mary said, “Funny, Chris and I haven’t thought about it that much recently, but yes, I think she will attend. I know that she is young and won’t be able to remember, but it would be great to have her there and share in the experience.”
Instead of looking at day-to-day life as a distraction to her Olympic dreams, Mary has found a way to integrate and embrace it – and win or lose, she is richer as a result.