Amanda Smock can appreciate the supreme disappointment felt by 90% of the athletes that competed in the Olympic Trials last month in Eugene, Oregon. In 2008 at the Trials, Amanda placed fifth in the triple jump, failing to qualify for a trip to Beijing. And following that failure, she was tempted to set aside her Olympic dreams and move on with her life.
But in spite of a number of challenges, Amanda found the will to continue. And last month, surrounded and supported by friends and family who made the pilgrimage to Eugene, Amanda took advantage of the opportunity for redemption. With an Olympic B standard coming into the Trials, Amanda took first place with a jump of 45 feet 9 inches.
Her reward, she is now a proud member of the US Track and Field Olympic team. And on July 27th, on her 30th birthday, Amanda will proudly join her fellow team members for the opening ceremonies in London.
“There were about three seconds the day following the Trials where I was getting a little overwhelmed with all of the calls and emails – but I decided to enjoy the moment and take a different perspective on it. It was so fun to be able to share it with a big support crew of friends and family. We were all spread out but were able to come together to share several meals and to celebrate after the event.”
But as indicated above, Amanda had many doubts after her performance four years ago.
According to Amanda, “The year following the 2008 Trials was really rough performance-wise, and then my training partner retired. I spent a lot of time thinking about why I was doing it, and there was a lot of reflection going on. And with zero funding coming in at that time, it was a really big commitment to continue on.”
In addition to the challenges in her athletic life, in June of 2009 Amanda lost her father, Glen Thieschafer, to cancer.
“If you had asked my dad, he would have said you have to do this. You have to be committed 100% – He was always supporting me and always my biggest fan. It really is kind of cool to carry his legacy on and to keep training and keep going after it.”
Not only was Amanda’s dad her biggest fan, he also introduced her to her first love, gymnastics. “I started gymnastics at three or four years old and stayed with it all the way through HS. In high school, I switched gears to track and really didn’t enjoy it at all. Once I eventually dropped gymnastics and track became my thing.”
In spite of leaving competitive gymnastics behind, Amanda has leveraged that training to make herself a better overall athlete.
“I think core strength and flexibility can help so much with other areas of life, and gymnastics certainly helped me with body awareness and versatility. Just being able to flex my foot a few degrees in one direction or the other and having awareness of that slight difference is absolutely critical in a technical event like the triple jump.”
But as we know, athletic talent and dedication are only one part of the equation, and funding an Olympic dream can be a huge burden. Amanda is quick to credit both the USA Track and Field Foundation (USATTF) and the New York Athletic Club (NYAC) in enabling her to meet her financial obligations.
“The grant money from the USATTF and the sponsorship from NYAC removes some of the financial burden that comes with my training. My husband has been incredibly supportive and made it so I haven’t had to think twice about my training; however I have been about to use the Foundation grant money to at least feel like I am offsetting the cost of my training, traveling, and all of the things that go along with the lifestyle – So for me it is huge stress relief.
One unique thing for me this year was that I was able to stop working, and it was the first time in all of my training that I was able to just focus on triple jump. It has allowed me to really enjoy this Olympic journey and pay tribute to what I am doing. Some people who have a lot of money coming in may have been able to train this way all along and that is their normal, but for me it has been unique.”
Last year, following the trials for the World Championships, Amanda was able to hang on to her peak for a few weeks and hit a lifetime PR. With a focused training effort this year, Amanda seems to be bringing it all together in a similar fashion at just the right moment. (Amanda laughing) “I think I will stick with the same training template and plan this year. I am hoping to repeat what I did last year and set another lifetime best during the preliminaries. If I can do that I have a really good shot at moving on to the finals.”
Best of luck Amanda!
To keep track of Amanda Smock and her performance at the Olympics, you can follow her on Twitter at @AJTSMOCK.