Aretha Thurmond joins elite company, making fourth U.S. Olympic team
The former UW star will seek her first medal this summer in London.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
EUGENE, Ore. — When Aretha Thurmond did what she always does — make the U.S. Olympic track and field team — she approached record territory. On her victory lap around Hayward Field, she bumped up against a field mark for hugs, smiles and sheer enjoyment of the moment.
"When you've been throwing this thing for 20 years," laughed the former Washington discus thrower, "you're going to get to know a few people, right?"
First, she embraced Greg Metcalf, the Husky track coach. A little farther down the east grandstand, there were Keith Eager, her coach at Renton High, and his wife, Sally. Then Monique Hollowell, a former UW athlete. Finally, on the north turn, spying her husband, Reedus, and young son Theo, she furiously pinwheeled the small American flag in her hand and saluted them.
It's old hat for Thurmond, who grew up in Seattle as Aretha Hill. But still, it never gets old.
"Four times," she said brightly on an interview stand later, emphasizing the "four."
"It's a dream come true."
Thurmond, seeking her first medal, thus becomes the 16th U.S. woman in track and field to make four Olympics (four of those women have made five teams). She started with Atlanta in 1996, missed Sydney in 2000 by one spot in the trials, then succeeded again in 2004 and 2008.
It's a good list. The roster of women who have competed in four Games includes magical names in the sport like Olga Connolly, Evelyn Ashford, Mary Slaney and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
And now Thurmond, who will turn 36 just after the London Games. Her veteran presence was palpable here as she unfurled a 203-6 ½ opener, which figured to be good enough to punch a plane ticket to London — and it was.
"It kind of sets the tone a little bit," she said. "Then, I'm not gonna lie, I went for the kill after that."
That slaying never happened, although she bettered herself slightly on the fifth throw at 204-2. Stephanie Brown Trafton, a former Cal Poly thrower who won the gold medal in Beijing four years ago, kept Thurmond from her third-straight trials victory with a heave of 213-10.
In a quirk of the schedule, as Thurmond stepped into the discus ring for her first attempt, former Husky Norris Frederick II was psyching himself at the start of the long jump runway for his first try, which came maybe 20 seconds later.
Frederick struggled to piece it all together, fouling twice in his first three attempts, barely making the last three rounds, and settling for fifth at 26-1.
Similarly, there was a touch of sadness even for Thurmond. Since she was a teenager, she has competed against Suzy Powell-Roos. They were born 20 days apart, they competed against each other in college (Powell at UCLA), they battled doggedly in the ring and were warm friends outside it. But Roos, third on this day, won't make the London trip because she hasn't achieved the Olympic "A" standard to qualify for the Games.
"I don't know if this is your swan song," Thurmond told Powell-Roos in the interview session, "but if it is, I love ya."
"This is probably — well, this is my last Olympic trials," said Roos, her voice breaking. "There's no doubt."
That day looms for Thurmond, but not yet. If her career is waning, the end isn't yet in sight.
"I always tell people, I'll just do this 'til the wheels fall off," said Thurmond. "I don't know when that is. But it's been an awesome ride."
Next stop: London.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
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