EUGENE OR - JULY 03: Kara Patterson of USA throws the javelin during the IAAF Diamond League Prefontaine Classic on July 3 2010 at Hayward Field in Eugene Oregon. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
As mentioned yesterday, David Boudia is not the only former Purdue athlete that hope to put the Gold in Old Gold and Black this summer. Javelin thrower Kara Patterson is hopefully making a trip to her second straight Olympics. After failing to qualify for the final round in the 2008 games Patterson established a new American record in the summer of 2010 that would have taken bronze in Beijing. She will soon compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials in an attempt to qualify for London, and the former NCAA champion recently agreed to answer some questions before the Trials:
T-Mill: You went to Beijing four years ago. How much is that entire experience helping you this time around?
Kara: Making the Beijing team was such a perfect way to start off making international teams for the United States. I had competed on a few junior teams before that, but was injured the year before the 2008 Olympics, so to make an amazing dream come true in the first year after an injury meant to me that I'd embarked on a whole new era of my career. It's like that 2007 injury separated me from the junior part of my career, and after it I could move forward and be a real force on the national women's javelin scene. Beijing itself opened my eyes to my international potential. I was happy with the experience I had there, even though I would've loved to throw further. I'd say that Beijing started my journey to the current Olympic year, but the international experiences I've had in the years in between have me better prepared than just Beijing could have.
T-Mill: You set the American record two years ago, which would have gotten you bronze at the last Olympics. What has been your journey to London been like since?
Kara: The 2010 season was SO fun!! Unfortunately, the 2011 season was a whole lot less fun. So far, this year has been a little mix of both, and I'm happy to say that I've learned from all of those experiences. Going through rough patches in this sport has only made me feel like I belong more, because everyone struggles at some point in their career. I've grown tougher because of the hard times, but also learned to not take myself so seriously. When you know what it's like to both succeed and be very disappointed, you are extremely grateful for the good stuff, and you learn which results you really care about. I care a lot about the Olympics. :)
Patterson's Record Throw
T-Mill: For the average person we don't know a lot about what goes into your training and coaching other than, "Why don't you throw that harder?" Can you tell the readers what life has been like since leaving Purdue and "going pro?"
Kara: I moved to Chula Vista, California in the fall of 2009 after graduating from Purdue, and it has been a fantastic place for me to transition into professional track and field. I was lucky to have an amazing coach in Rodney Zuyderwyk at Purdue; we worked hard, and there were many different components to our training, so I was well prepared for what I do now.
My current coach, Ty Sevin, has me work on heavy stuff in the fall to build a training base, and the load gradually decreases as the season gets closer. You throw the javelin with your legs just as much as you do with your upper body, and your core is how you transfer the energy of the throw through your body to the javelin, so that has to be strong, too. There's a lot more total-body work that goes into javelin than people expect! At the height of my heavy training, I spend 20-25 hours per week at practice, sometimes more. That includes running, jumping, lifting, some gymnastics, and of course, throwing!
T-Mill: I know you're thinking of the Trials first, but what do you think your medal chances are in London?
Kara: Great, if I do what I'm capable of!! I've proven to myself that I can contend with the international women who will be major players in London, and I've gotten familiar with seeing them at meets in the last few years. I'm finally in a place where I feel comfortable being around the best in the world, and when I'm relaxed and enjoying an experience, that's when my best throws come. I can't wait until I can focus fully on succeeding there!
T-Mill: What's different this time around than four years ago?
Kara: Four years ago feels like a lifetime ago! My career has been through a lot of changes since Beijing. The 2009 season saw me finish college, 2010 was incredibly successful for me, and then 2011 was extremely disappointing. I have felt many of the emotions that can come out of a sports career in a short time, and I think that's helped me grow up. I'm tougher about disappointments and I'm more grateful for success. Knowing firsthand how much better success is just makes you want it more though.
T-Mill: Do you have career plans for after London? Are you gonna make another go at Rio in four years?
Kara: I'll definitely have a go at Rio! Athletes in most field events reach their prime later than those in many track events, so I've still got some of my best years ahead of me. I've definitely learned that having some normality in my life is important to me though, so I want to keep that in mind for the next four years. Right now, the focus is making the Olympic Team and competing to the best of my ability in London, and we'll see what happens after that!
T-Mill: How was your time at Purdue balancing school, your NCAA career, and your growing international career?
Kara: It was a really cool experience to make the Olympic team in 2008 and then go back to West Lafayette for my senior year. I felt so supported and welcomed home after Beijing by my roommates, teammates, coaches, classmates, and professors, and I can't imagine doing it any other way! Having the security blanket of the NCAA after making my first major international team was awesome; having seen what international competition would be like a whole year before graduating allowed me to prepare mentally for a professional career in a place I was comfortable! Plus, Coach Zuyderwyk had my professional career in mind I think even before I did, and he was careful with my NCAA schedule so I could compete healthy long into the summer. As far as school is concerned, I sacrificed a lot of sleep to get everything done, because I inherited a procrastination gene, but I also won't accept things that aren't my best work. School has always been very important to me, I just didn't budget my time very well!
I think I'm still making up lost ground, because I sleep 9-10 hours a night now...sometimes more.
T-Mill: You're very open as a fellow blogger, sharing your emotions very well. How has that helped in your training?
Kara: Thank you so much! My blog started as a little bit of a form of sports psychology, and has become more so over the few years I've written it. When something good happens, I write it down so I can remember it. When something bad happens, I write it down so I can forget it and move on. Some people keep a private training journal, but I find that I'm actually more honest and more productive in my writing when I know other people might read it. It makes me feel accountable, and I'm always motivated after I blog.
T-Mill: I think I remember you mentioning some injuries last year. What were they?
Kara: My left SI joint (sacroiliac...the junction of two pelvic bones) got inflamed, and wouldn't calm down. It's understandable that my body responded that way to how I was throwing. The inflammation meant pain in the left low-back, muscle spasms every now and then up that side of my back, and a lot of decreased mobility. It's hard to hit a block confidently with all of that going on. I deal with a little pain from this issue still, but have been able to stabilize the area with tons of help from Dr. Mike Rintala, an awesome chiropractor in San Diego! Every javelin thrower experiences some sort of pain.
T-Mill: Finally, when you win gold, what football game should we expect to see you lead SHOUT from the press box?
Kara: Fun!!! I actually got to lead SHOUT in the fall of 2008 with Kendra Lancaster and Emma Preuschl after we all returned from Beijing, but I'd be honored to do it again. I haven't been back to Purdue since the spring of 2010, so it's about that time!
Thanks again, Kara, for sharing some time with the readers. Let's wish her and David luck next month in London. Qualifications for the women's javelin are August 7th, with the finals on August 9th.