On the Eve Before the Olympic Trials: I Win Because...

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(Editor's Note: Joanna Hayes is the 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 100 Meter Hurdles. After an injury took her out of the 2008 Olympic Trials, she retired from the sport. Since then she's pursued a successful coaching career and given birth to a daughter named Zoe. This is the latest post chronicling her comeback ~js)

Joanna Hayes

As I sit on my hotel bed at the newly renovated Valley River Inn in Eugene Oregon I cannot help but think, "The Olympic Track & Field Trials are about to begin!" It really happened so fast. I knew they would be here - we all did - but somehow I thought they would take a little longer to arrive.

I participated in my first press conference in four years and it was really fun. I had a blast because I decided to have enjoy every day and just relish each and every thing about the trials and this electric atmosphere. The press conference was small with only Ginnie Crawford, Kellie Wells, and myself showing up. It was relaxed and really funny. Jokes galore. Being with these other world class athletes got me really excited about the possibility of making the team.

Anything is possible, I have so many people who support and believe in me. I want to go out and make them proud and that is going to happen as long as I give 100% in every round and that's what I plan to do! When I think of all my years in this sport I have to smile and say, "Track has been good to me". Even with the many years of injuries and disappointments I have an Olympic Gold Medal, and Olympic record, second fastest American ever, and not mention all my high school and college accomplishments and races I've won in Europe. Most importantly I have made lifelong friends and fans. I cannot express how important that is to me. When I think of all the people I've met over the years I am so thankful for this sport. I am thankful for the day my parents took me to my first track meet at nine years old, I am thankful for the opportunity to compete in the 2012 Olympic Trials and EVERYTHING in between!"

Not only am I excited to compete in this year's Olympic Trials I am also excited to watch them. We have some extremely talented athletes in our country and the Olympic Trials are going to be AWESOME! So many people will be happy and excited with their results but the truth is that so many more may be disappointed by the end of this wonderful event. There are only three spots per event which means the odds are in no one's favor and everyone will push themselves to the limit.

There will be heartbreak and pain and there will be joy and happiness, agony and ecstasy. There will be big hearts and guts laid out on the track, there will be tears of happiness and sadness, strength and injury, predictability and surprise, anger and relief, sportsmanship and comradely spirit and pride. Ten days jam packed full of emotions. When it's all said and done Team USA will be assembled and ready to again let the world know why we are the hardest team to make and the hardest team to beat!

This will be my 5th and final Olympic Trials. That's a lot of trials and I'm only 1 for 4. Granted it was an awesome Olympic result so no complaining here. My first trial was in 1996 and the only reason I went was because my parents have horrible timing. My birthday is December 23rd which made me eight days too old to compete at World Juniors. Eight days!!! So my coach decided to take me to Atlanta for the Olympic Trials. Wow! That track was fast - my body was rollin! I made it to the second round and was running faster than I'd ever run before and BAM I hit one of the last hurdles and knocked out any chance of advancement. But I wasn't really trippin' off of it because I honestly didn't have high expectations and did not want to be there. I wanted to be in Sydney Australia with people my own age! Despite the mix-up, II can say it really was an awesome experience for me.

In 2000 I was supposed to make the U.S. Team. It wasn't an "experience" thing. I was picked by Track and Field News to make the team in the 400 hurdles. However I placed a disappointing 4th in those and 5th in the 100 hurdles. I guess Sydney just was not in my future AGAIN! I was so disappointed I did not return to the track until 2003! By the time 2004 rolled around I was ready and highly motivated and well, you know the rest! [Olympic Gold Medal and World Record]

The 2008 Olympic Trials proved to be yet another heartbreak for me. After suffering three years of injury and defeat I was finally back on track literally, and 3-0 in my races entering the trials. Feeling great in the first round - winning very relaxed and comfortable - I felt a huge pain in my knee which ended up being a torn patellar tendon and basically that's all she wrote! I placed 7th and well again, you know the rest!

Competitive track was over for me and it was on to real life. Or so I thought. Now, here I am again four years later at Trials number 5!  However this time there are no worries and no stress. I was stressed and under pressure to make the team in 08' but this year no one expects anything from me. I have no sponsorship contract and nothing to lose! No matter what happens, - good, bad, or indifferent - I win because I showed up. I win because I have made a remarkable comeback. I win because I enjoyed myself. I win because I am healthy. I win because God has blessed me with this talent that has touched the world in so many ways, and I win because I will walk off of that track and hug and kiss the most beautiful child in the world. Zoe is the best reward imaginable.

So, for all of you reading this just know that I am happy to be a part of the Olympic Trials and when all is said and done I will be happy with my life and career. Thank you for all of your support I plan to go out there run hard run fast with my eyes set on London and my heart full of love for track & field!

xoxo Jo

[Check out results for the Olympic Track & Field Trials June 21 - July 1, 2012. It is the largest national championship track meet in the world where more than 1,000 athletes compete for the right to represent Team USA at the Olympic Games.]

[UPDATE: Joanna made it into the semis. Stay tuned!]

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