The Dream becomes reality for Rolla native Chantae McMillan in just a few days.
This weekend McMillan departs for London, England to begin her preparations as a member of the United States Track and Field Team for the 2012 Summer Games of the XXX Olympiad, to be held in London July 27 through Aug. 12.
McMillan will be competing in the multi-event heptathlon, having placed third last month at the U.S. Olympic Trials at Eugene, Ore. with an Olympic “A” Standard qualifying score of 6,188 points.
The heptathlon includes seven events to test running, jumping and throwing excellence – the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin and 800-meter run.
McMillan made the Olympics despite having to take several months off due to knee surgery she underwent in August, 2011. She didn’t begin training for the U.S. Olympic Trials until March, 2012. In addition, the knee injury has forced her to switch her take-off leg in both the high jump and long jump. Despite that, she was able to overcome.
This past week McMillan granted a telephone interview with the Daily News from her training headquarters in Dayton, Ohio. Here are her comments:
Q: You’re getting ready to compete in the O-L-Y-M-P-I-C-S! Has that sunk in yet?
A: Wow! Not really. I think I’m still waiting for it to sink in.
Q: What have you been doing since qualifying at the Olympic Trials?
A: I took some days off. I hung out with my cousin; we went to Orlando (Fla.). Now I’m back to work.
Q: What’s the immediate schedule now?
A: Some of (the U.S. Track Team members) have already gone over. I’m going over to Birmingham, England to train this weekend.
Q: Who’s planning to fly to England to watch you?
A: My parents are going. And I’m hoping some aunts and uncles and friends will be able to come.
Q: Has the national coverage kicked in yet?
A: Not really. The interviews have been pretty local. You, Dayton, Springfield (Mo.). I have an agent now and she’s getting things taken care of.
Q: You needed pretty much the best 800-meter run of your life to qualify for the Olympics at the trials, and you responded with a personal-best time. Can you take us through that race?
A: My coach told me before the race I needed a 2:17 at least. Then later the announcer said I had to run a 2:20 and I thought, ‘Look at that, coach was lying to me!’ I went out slow in the first 200 (meters), the first time I looked at the clock. I came off the 400 (meter) mark and I remember this girl passing me and saying, ‘Come on, Chantae!’ At that point I thought I had to go. With 300 (meters) left I told myself, ‘If you want to be an Olympian you’ve got to kick it in right now.’ I remember before I got to the finish I saw the clock and it said 2:15. (After crossing the finish line) I remember looking at the ground feeling tired. But you could tell I was an Olympian!
Page 2 of 3 - Q: At Rolla High School and entering the University of Nebraska, your specialty was the long jump. In a sense, you had to re-learn the event when you had to switch take-off legs. And in the Olympic Trials you had your worse finish in the event, placing 17th while competing in the rain. That put you back to fifth place in the standings with two events left. How big a disappointment was that?
A: I really wasn’t thinking about it. I looked at the long jump scoreboard and was disappointed I wasn’t in the top-10. But it didn’t put any pressure on the next two events.
Q: And you immediately responded in the next event, the javelin, by blowing away the competition by around 14 feet by getting off a personal-best 164-10. Did you surprise yourself with that throw?
A: Throughout the year the javelin has gone really well. So it wasn’t very surprising. I love the javelin.
Q: You compete in the event that was made famous by another Missouri Olympian, Jackie Joyner-Kersee. She is by far the greatest athlete in the history of the heptathlon, as well as one of the greatest long-jumpers. How much elbow-rubbing have you got to do with Jackie?
A: Jackie presented us with our medals. I was excited just to meet her. She gave me a hug as she presented me the medal. And after the ceremonies I went back to her and asked her for another hug! To meet her was such a thrill for me.
Q: Your Olympic heptathlon teammates are five-time national champion Hyleas Fountain and Sharon Day. Are you three close?
A: I think so. I know my two teammates going in; I know what they’re capable of. You just know who’s going to put up good marks. Hyleas has done a tremendous job taking me under her wing and looking out for me. And I really appreciate it. Sharon, we have talked at meets. At this meet I’m sure our relationship will grow.
Q: What are you going to be satisfied with from your Olympic performance?
A: Obviously, I’d love to medal. But I’ll be happy with my best, whatever that is.
Q: Are you going to have a chance to see some of the other Olympic venues?
A: Oh, I’m going to be a tourist! It’s going to be exciting!
Q: What are some of the other venues you hope to see?
A: Gymnastics and swimming. Basketball... that will be fun! And wrestling. I have a former (Nebraska) Husker friend who is on the wrestling team and has a great chance to get a gold medal.
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