Janay DeLoach-Soukup crammed a pretty good year into one amazing month.
Dec. 17, 2012
The following article was published in the latest edition of The Horn magazine distributed to former athletes and Ram Club members. For information on how you can receive upcoming issues of The Horn, call 970-491-4666.
Three weeks after winning a bronze medal in the women's long jump at the London Olympics, DeLoach returned to the United States after competing in the last of four post-Olympic European track and field meets. And that’s when the chaos ensued.
The day she returned she joined friends and family in Las Vegas for her bachelorette party. Four days later she was honored at a Colorado Rapids game in Denver. The following day she was in Old Town Fort Collins for a community "welcome home" party. Two days later she was married to longtime boyfriend and former CSU teammate Patrick Soukup. The dizzying stretch ended the next day when she and other Colorado Olympians were honored at a Denver Broncos game.
"It was amazing," she said of the post-Olympic blur. "I loved being a part of everything, but I was just exhausted. I spent our entire honeymoon (in Cancun, Mexico) winding down. I didn't do one thing that might be considered exercise. I just sat in a beach chair and read a book. It was exactly what I needed."
While the quiet time may have recharged her both mentally and physically, it also gave her time to reflect on her Olympic experience. While she remains thrilled to have won bronze in her first Games, she can't help thinking about what might have been.
The second of her six jumps in the finals is the one that keeps that "what if?" feeling alive. When she landed in the sand, she knew she had done something special. When she turned around, however, the official has holding up the flag signifying "foul."
DeLoach-Soukup was devastated.
"That jump was the one I came for—the one I had worked so hard for," she said. "That jump would have won the gold. After that I kept fighting for something similar, but I was just off, for whatever reason."
As it was, her best jump was just enough to hold off Latvia's Ineta Radevica — an old college rival who competed at Nebraska — by one centimeter for the bronze. Weeks later, however, she can't stop thinking about what might have been.
"I fouled by just a tiny bit — much less than a centimeter," noting that she agreed with the official ruling to waive her second jump. "That's what makes it heartbreaking."
Despite that disappointment, she still beams when talking about her Olympic experience. She left with a "ton" of swag: outfits, shoes, a comforter, Olympic pins — you name it. And yes, she got to meet LeBron James and many of the other members of the U.S. men's basketball team.
The opening ceremonies were her favorite moment.
"My feet were tired, and I was wearing this silly sailor outfit (the official team ensemble), but when you get inside the stadium you forget it all,” she said. “That was a real ‘wow!’ moment for me and everyone there. I was standing so close to the Olympic torch I could actually feel the heat. It was an amazing experience.”
DeLoach-Soukup plans to take a couple of months off before resuming her training. She still has to take her national boards to complete work on her master’s in occupation therapy, and she’s in no rush to make it back for the indoor season.
“If my body has recovered, I’ll do the indoor season,” she said. “If not, I will do the outdoor season full-on.”
After that, it will be three years of hard work before she gets another shot at the top step of the Olympic medals podium in Rio de Janeiro.
“As long as I’m healthy and competitive, I will try it,” she said. “I will certainly be trying to go back. I want another shot at that gold.”