For Minnesota Olympian Smock, a leap of faith

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 25, 2012 - 12:21 PM

The rock-solid confidence of Amanda Smock's dad, who died in 2009, helped her push past disappointment to reach London.

The story has been told many times over the past year, to the point it has become part of Amanda Smock's official biography on the USA Track and Field website. That hasn't lessened the emotional impact she feels every time she hears it, or tells it, or looks at that treasured credential from the 2008 Olympic trials.

Smock, of Melrose, didn't make the Olympic team in the triple jump that year. Her father, Glen Thieschafer, gave her a way to look ahead when he crossed out the "2008" on the credential he wore at those trials in Eugene, Ore. He replaced it with "2012,'' telling his daughter he believed she would get to the Olympics the next time around -- a message he continued to deliver until his death in 2009.

It did not end there. Thieschafer's faith still is symbolized in that credential, which Smock tucked into her bag during last month's trials in Eugene, Ore. With his words alive in her heart, she leapt 45 feet, 9 inches to make the team that will compete at the London Olympics.

Smock is the only American woman who qualified for the triple jump at the Summer Games, which begin Friday on her 30th birthday. She also is the first to acknowledge it never would have happened without unwavering support. Retired U.S. champ Shani Marks Johnson of Apple Valley, who made the 2008 Olympic team while training with Smock, still works out with her. Husband Greg Smock keeps things rolling at home, her employer has allowed her to take a leave and Macalester College has allowed her full use of its athletic facilities.

Her father's presence, too, remains as powerful as ever. When he first suggested Smock should keep pursuing her Olympic goals, she didn't know if she could train for four more years. Stumbling across the credential last year reminded her that he never doubted she would get to London, which strengthened her resolve to make it for the both of them.

"At the trials, I spent a lot of time thinking about him," Smock said of her father, who died at age 52 of cancer. "I'm a person of strong faith, so I know he was right there with me and sharing the whole experience with me. That was his dream for me since forever, and especially since 2008.

"I pulled out [the credential] when I was done and said, 'OK! We did it!' To me, that's a really strong piece of this. On the days when I doubted myself, I would think back on his strong belief in me, how he was always whispering in my ear, telling me I could do it. That is a really cool memory to have and to hold on to."

Since finishing fifth at the 2008 Olympic trials, Smock has won two U.S. outdoor championships and added an indoor title this spring. She trains six days a week at Macalester and has been a full-time athlete since the first of the year, taking a leave from her job with a Twin Cities corporate wellness group.

For several years, Smock has been coached by Michael Eskind of Boston, who guides her workouts via computer and phone. She did much of her training alone until last fall, when Marks Johnson began joining her. The two trained together at the U during the leadup to the 2008 Olympics, a partnership that helped Marks Johnson make the team for Beijing.

Marks Johnson now is married and has a 15-month-old daughter, but she wanted to help Smock achieve her Olympic ambitions. Even on the hottest days this summer, they have met at Macalester to practice triple jumping, with Marks Johnson providing camaraderie, support and technical advice.

"In 2008, it would have been hard for me to do it without her," said Marks Johnson, who also coaches young athletes in the area. "Last fall, I told her I wanted so badly for her to make the Olympic team that I would train with her if she wanted. It's been very, very fun, and she's worked so hard. I'm so proud of her.''

Marks Johnson has always praised Smock's technique. Now, she said, Smock has added more strength, and experience has made her a better competitor.

A three-time NCAA Division II champion at North Dakota State, Smock reached new heights last year when she made the U.S. team for the world championships. It took her several tries to meet the qualifying standard, but she persisted and jumped a personal-best 46 feet, 6¼ inches to earn a place in the field. Though she did not make it past the initial round, Smock said she learned how to prepare mentally and physically to perform on the world stage.

She also has learned how to deal with heartache. Greg Smock, who also competed in track at North Dakota State, said the only time he saw his wife doubt herself was in 2009, when her father died and Marks Johnson retired. But she soldiered on.

He occasionally trains with Amanda, too, though he laughed at his inability to keep up with her. Her strength and confidence are peaking, he said, and she remains one of the most determined people he knows.

"That year after the [2008] trials, it was tough for her," said Greg Smock, a patent attorney. "She looked at her dad's credential every day, and in the back of her mind, I think she always felt she could do it. When she did it in Eugene, it was very emotional."

It will require a Herculean effort for Smock to reach the podium in London. No American woman has won an Olympic medal in the triple jump, and her best mark in 2012 -- the 45-9 she leapt at the trials -- is nearly 3 1/2 feet short of the world's best this year, recorded by Ukraine's Olha Saladuha.

That jump, though, propelled Smock to a trials victory and on to the Olympics. During her victory lap, she stopped to embrace the friends and family who had come to see her -- including four of her dad's sisters, who had driven hours to surprise her.

As sweet as that was, Smock feels certain she has more to achieve, just as her father believed.

"I feel like this is going to mean more and more as my life goes on," she said. "It's so special to be able to train at an elite level and grab your dreams. Right now, I feel an incredible amount of excitement and gratitude toward the people who have supported me. I just feel so blessed."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - LP: B. Wilson 7 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Grimm 8
Detroit - WP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Shields 2
Philadelphia - WP: J. Williams 3 FINAL
Oakland - LP: D. Otero 0
Toronto - WP: M. Stroman 6 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: C. Capuano 3
Arizona - LP: T. Cahill 1 FINAL
Colorado - WP: E. Butler 5
Boston - LP: R. De La Rosa 2 FINAL
Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman 7
Milwaukee - WP: Z. Duke 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: M. Melancon 0
Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: J. Cosart 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 2
Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: C. Archer 3
Cleveland - WP: T. House 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: T. May 3
Seattle - LP: C. Young 1 FINAL
Houston - WP: D. Keuchel 10
Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake 4 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Motte 8
San Francisco - LP: Y. Petit 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: A. Cashner 3
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 5 FINAL
LA Angels - WP: J. Weaver 8
San Diego 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(13) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(11) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(21) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
(18) Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
Miss State 34 FINAL
(8) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(14) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(24) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
(22) Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(20) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(23) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
(18) Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(8) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(9) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(17) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Vancouver FC 0 FINAL
Portland 3
Houston 0 FINAL
Philadelphia 0
New England 0 FINAL
Columbus 1
San Jose 0 FINAL
Montreal 2
Seattle 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 4
D.C. 3 FINAL
Chicago 3
FC Dallas 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan

ADVERTISEMENT

Advertisement
Golden Gavel by Star Tribune

Countdown to great deals

Bid Sept. 21-29

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings do on Sunday in New Orleans?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close