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Sunday, July 6, 2008

"I did not make the Olympics ... and honestly, I think that's awesome."

That's what my friend Kathryn Bertine said after years of trying to make it to the Olympics. She's a cyclist and a triathlete who writes for ESPN. I mention her at the beginning of this post because for every athlete who qualifies to represent his/her country in the Games, there are so many who don't make it. And that's okay. Mom always said, "Life isn't fair," didn't she?

But let's start by celebrating the one who made it today:

Joanne Dow is going to the Olympics! Cars are burning in the streets of Manchester, New Hampshire tonight. Call the National Guard! Stop the riots! Catch all the action on the 5 o'clock news and don't miss the ticker-tape parade at the airport when the 44-year old mother of two returns victorious.

 1 Joanne Dow                    adidas                    1:35:11
2 Teresa Vaill Walk USA 1:36:35
3 Susan Armenta unattached 1:42:12
4 Sam Cohen Parkside A C 1:42:33
5 Jolene Moore New York A C 1:42:37
6 Stephanie Casey unattached 1:43:51
7 Solomiya Login S E Pa. A C 1:44:09

8 Maria Michta Walk USA 1:47:45
9 Carolyn Kealty unattached 1:48:40
10 Loretta Schuellein Walk USA 1:49:04
11 Susan Randall Miami Valley TC 1:49:15
12 Margaret Ditchburn unattached 1:51:31
13 Heidi Hauch unattached 2:12:01

-- Lauren Forgues Maine Racewalkers DNF
-- Sara Standley-Gonzalez unattached DQ
-- Kristen Furseth-Mullaney Pegasus AC DQ

Whoa-whoo! Okay, I've been watching the Olympic Trials all week and loving every minute of it from the exciting to the mundane: Abdi jumping in the steeplechase water pit after winning the 10000mt, classic! Lagat winning both the 1500mt and 5000mt.... yeah, and the sun came up again, too. He made it look so easy. I know a lot of these athletes personally from past teams or championship races but because it was the racewalk, I really got emotional watching Joanne win this morning's race. I know what it takes to train for years as a racewalker with hopes of making an Olympic team. But Joanne had trained for 14 years and come up short three times. Heartbreak, heartbreak, heartbreak... jubilation. This was her Trials.

I was working the aid station for Susan Armenta and Margaret Ditchburn, so I was there to see Joanne pull away from Teresa. Joanne's husband, Tim, was giving her drinks and it was hard not to choke up a bit watching Tim watch Joanne race. She was giving it everything she had and winning. She was dominating the field and Tim was so quiet. With 3km to go in the race, Joanne had it locked up and I had to go tell Tim, "Breath, just breath. She's gonna make it." He barely smiled. I don't think he believed it was actually happening. And I'm sure that Joanne felt the same way with a couple laps to go. It's the way I felt in Russia when I hit the Olympic time standard: "Is this real? Am I really going to make it to Beijing?" And then you have to hold yourself together and keep racing. And raise your arms in victory as you come across the line. "I'M GOING TO THE OLYMPICS!" Congratulations, Joanne.

Here are some articles about Joanne and her journey to the Olympics.

Pre-Trials NY Times article

Pre-Trials Foster's Daily Democrat article

Manchester's Union Leader article

Which makes me think of all the women who didn't make it today: Teresa Vaill, Susan Armenta, Sam Cohen, Jolene Moore, everyone else. Next time? Maybe, but don't forget how much you have accomplished to get this far. Cherish the memories of your own personal journey.

My friend Kathryn Bertine sums it up best in her lengthy ESPN series So you wanna be an Olympian? [part 1 ... part 13]

"I did not make the Olympics ... and honestly, I think that's awesome."

She tells of her journey of self-discovery in an effort to make the 2008 Olympic Team – the good, the bad and the really sweaty. You can start at the end, if you like, but it's an entertaining read from the beginning. I've spoiled the punchline, I'm afraid, but that's awesome, too.

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