A leap of faith
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 symbolised in that credential, which Smock tucked into her bag during the trials in June. With his words alive in her heart, she leapt 45 feet, 9 inches to make the team at the London Olympics.
Smock is the only American woman who qualified for the triple jump at the Summer Games, which began on the day of her 30th birthday. She also is the first to acknowledge it never would have happened without unwavering support.
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."
She also has learned how to deal with heartache. Her Husband, 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.
"That year after the  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.
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