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 Light-Hearted Gold Medalist Is All Business In The Ring


jan192021 priceDeAnna Price, photo by World Athletics

January 17th, 2021

Few initially meeting and spending time with the affable DeAnna Price would suspect she is one of the geatest hammer throw athletes of all time. While a good number of highly accomplished track & field athletes can be aloof, guarded, almost suspicious of others - especially media types - the reigning World Championship gold medalist is quite approachable and happy to talk with others. Ask any of the dozens of Track & Field News Tour fans who were chatted up by DeAnna in the Khalifa Stadium stands during the days following her ground-breaking hammer victory at the 2019 Doha World Championships. "I love when I can sit and talk with the fans," notes Price. "That's how you build relationships. And that is what track and field is - a unity of people enjoying a major sport."

But don't let Price's easy-going nature mislead you. In her field event, the Missouri native is a thoroughly prepared, completely focused world-class performer. In 2019, U.S.A.'s Price assembled a storybook year. The former Southern Illinois star set a new American record in the hammer, swirling the ball and chain implement 78.24m [256'8"] in winning the USATF national championship - a throw that ranks her #4 on the all-time world list. Price remembers that prior to the competition, premonitions of the AR throw were emerging. "Leading up to the competition we do a mock throw meet with my 3.75K hammer. Whatever I can do the day before competition is usually what I can do in competition with my 4K," she explains. "And I threw it 80.50m. And I was like 'Wow. That's crazy."

In the Des Moines final, the 2-time NCAA hammer champion vividly recalls her 6th and final throw. "I knew there was more in the tank and that I was able to get a good one. So on that very last throw I put everything into it," Price outlines intently. "I just slammed it. I knew it was good. But I didn't know how good," laughs Price. "When they announced the measurement I just started crying. It was probably the best series I've ever thrown," she offers in an understatement.

It has not been widely recognized that in the months leading up to the Des Moines championships, DeAnna Price was coping with unidentified, nagging injuries. "Something was going on with my hamstring," she confides. "I couldn't figure out what was going on. I couldn't rotate, couldn't turn all the way around. I just couldn't do it," she explains. "Coach Lambert [Price's coach, husband, and accomplished thrower in his own right] was fantastic. He was doing his best to keep me calm, to keep me motivated. He was like, 'It's going to be OK. Just breathe. Everything is fine." And I'm like, 'I,m upset!'", she laughs. A flurry of specialists ultimately righted the ship and set the table for the record throw in Des Moines. "I have a long history of injuries," laments Price.

Energized by her new AR in Des Moines, Price focused on the challenge that awaited her in Doha, not on anticipated performances. "Honestly, Coach Lambert and I tried not to think about expectations. I knew I was coming in with the farthest throw. Everyone was like, 'Is she going to do it? Is she going to be the first American woman ever to win a hammer medal?" For me, I just wanted to do it for my country. I wanted to do it for my family. I wanted to do it because my husband and I put so much time and effort into this." Price, leading from the first round, dominated the World Championship hammer final, posting a winning mark of 77.54m [254'5"] to capture the gold medal and become the first American female hammer thrower to win a medal of any color in either the World Championships or the Olympic Games. Price's stunning performances in 2019 - her 8th consecutive year of PR progression - earned her the year's #1 world ranking by Track & Field News and had her well-position for more success in the upcoming 2020 Olympic year.

A common theme that emerges in any conversation with Price is her expressed appreciation for Coach Lambert and the critical contributions he has made to her ultimate success. Price, the 2018 NACAC Hammer champion, has a critical and multi-faceted relationship with J.C. Lambert - her husband, coach, her cheerleader, and her confidant. While track & field athletes coached by their spouse are not uncommon [e.g. Global medalists Katerina Stefanidi; Jenn Suhr; Emma Coburn; Jackie Joyner Kersee], these delicate and tricky relationships require mutual buy in; mutual respect; boundaries; and more to make the duality of the relationship successful. "For us, we have to separate it," offers Price candidly. "When I go to practice, he is Coach Lambert and I am athlete DeAnna. We can't take [our collaboration] personally. So if we do have an issue with our coach/athlete relationship, we hash it out at the field. And then when we come home, it is completely dropped and we are husband and wife. And that is best way for us to do it. We also make sure we take time out for us - a movie night at the house; etc." During off days, Price, an All-State softball pitcher during her high school days, often enjoyed playing catch with her husband/coach. "He refuses now to catch my pitches," laughs DeAnna who can still rifle in blistering underhand pitches. "He says 'you're too strong for this and I'm getting old.''' After a brief pause she adds, 'Honestly. he got me to such an amazing level and he has been giving me even more than anyone could ever have imagined."

Just as it did for all of us, the Covid-19 virus changed the anticipated 2020 pathway for DeAnna Price. As the Tokyo Olympiad was postponed and the staircase of track & field gatherings leading up to the Games were either canceled or, in a few cases, greatly modified, Price and other Olympic hopefuls were forced to develop new plans going forward. How did Price deal with this challenge? "It took a lot of moxie. I think every athlete has their own COVID story," says Price. "I do have [a respiratory concern] that puts me at higher risk. Se we wanted to make sure that I was being safe. Always resourceful, Price transformed her garage into useable space to help her prepare for 2021; turned a spare bedroom into a therapy room; and even adopted an imaginative approach for throwing venues: "Going down the road, getting to an open field and throwing off the apron of the asphalt. All of those things were definitely a challenge. But I took it as a new opportunity. It may be a challenge, but I can do this. I tried to keep an open mind."

"I did not compete at all during 2020," explained Price about a decision that likely helped promote full and complete healing of some of her lingering tightness and injuries. "We took a step back and assessed what we needed to do. My husband and I made sure that I would be able to train full time and we made sure we aligned everything correctly. I did more therapy because I wanted to make sure that I am 100% going into 2021. We made sure that we got everything fixed up. I definitely learned a lot more about myself this year that I thought I ever could."

Price and Lambert have developed a flexible approach to prepare DeAnna to be able to perform at her highest level at the upcoming Olympic Trials in June. "We are taking it day-by-day. We are setting up for the first meet and then we'll evaluate that performance and make adjustments from there, setting up for the next one, and the next one," states Price in explaining the fundamental plan. "Our main goal is to have everything in place for the Olympic Trials. You know, you've got to make the team first. You can't be looking out toward Tokyo until you make the team. We want to make sure that we are setting up correctly."

The Olympic medal hopeful is expecting top-flight 2021 performances across the board from an array of American female hammer throwers. "I think this is going to be an amazing year. I think you're going to see several women over 77 meters," predicts the reigning national champion. "Between me, Gwen [Berry], Brooke Andersen, and others, there are so many athletes, including others from college, I think you're going to see a lot of improvement in the women's hammer throw. And I think it is going to be a very beautiful thing. I am really excited to see what's going to be happening this year. "

Not surprisingly, DeAnna Price has identified specific goals she wants to achieve before her wonderful ride as a world-class hammer athlete concludes. "I would like to be one of the women to throw over 80 meters," replies the world champion without hesitation. "That is probably one of my biggest goals - and of course to be a medalist in the Olympic Games. I try in all respects to make sure that I am heading in the right direction. I am so excited because I know those goals are attainable. Luckily, I have the amazing support that keeps me motivated."

Price marvels when realizing she has completed 10 years of hammer dedication. "2011 - that's when I really started serious training" recalls the world champion. When looking ahead, DeAnna Price projects the remainder of her athletic career incrementally by upcoming Olympic years. "Ideally, my career would take me to 2024. 2024 - that doesn't seem too bad, does it?, she inquires. "But 2028! That's the one where - Eeeeeeee!" squeals DeAnna, "I would be 35!" / Dave Hunter / 

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Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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