Hundreds of Fort Collins locals chose to miss the Rio de Janiero Olympic Games’ opening ceremonies Friday night to instead honor and wish luck to an Olympian who calls the city home.
Janay DeLoach, a CSU alumna, won the bronze in the women’s long jump in the London 2012 Olympics, and will be going for gold in the same event this year.
Deloach began her journey to the Olympics thirteen years ago when she was recognized for her skill in the long jump while living in Alaska – she grew up as a military child and lived in many places.
“She had jumped pretty far, over 19 feet, and had some pretty good spring times” said Brian Bedard, head track and field coach at CSU. “Up in Alaska, you can only compete in track for about a month, the season is really short.”
DeLoach has gone through many surgeries and has had issues with her feet in the past. She told this to coach Ryan Baily, the head assistant coach at CSU, but he didn’t initially fully understand what the problem was.
Bailey said he realized how serious of an issue it was when DeLoach tried to bend her feet and one of them didn’t really bend.
“I was like, ‘which leg is that?’ and she said, ‘that’s my jump leg,'” Baily said. “I said ‘that’s a problem.'”
After two surgeries on her left foot, DeLoach and her coaches were at an impasse as to how to keep her jumping. To keep her in the games, they did something totally unprecedented in the Olympic games – DeLoach switched her jumping foot.
“She was still on crutches, she showed up every day, she would hobble around the weight room… not really able to do track or sprint,” said Kareem Wahab, a CSU track and field assistant coach who helped train DeLoach.
“It’s been a very very tough road for me,” DeLoach said when she took the stage. “I’ve gone through ups and more than enough downs… I almost gave up.”
Wearing the official Opening Ceremony attire, despite not being able to attend, DeLoach thanked her coaches for their support, enabling her to get back to the field. She will be leaving for Rio de Janiero on Sunday.
You can watch DeLoach represent Team USA in the 2016 Olympic Games in the Women’s Long Jump event on August 16 and 17.