Daily Egyptian

Recent SIU grad on the Olympics and what’s to come

By Ted Ward

The 2016 Rio Olympics was a first for one former SIU track and field star, but she almost made it a dangerous experience for one of the world’s top athletes.

“The nets we practiced in at the Navy base were falling apart, so I actually threw my hammer right as [six-time gold medalist] Allyson Felix was walking by and almost hit her,” Deanna Price, who graduated from SIU in May, jokingly said. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I almost killed Allyson Felix.'”

Price and Felix brushed off the incident and went on to have success on the world’s largest stage.

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After qualifying for Team USA with a third-place finish at the Olympic trials, the two-time NCAA hammer throw champion went on to finish eighth in the world in Rio with a 70.95 meter toss.

As the day of competition — Aug. 15 — arrived, Price said she became anxious.

“I was just really nervous and not really on my game,” she said. “Then all I could hear was my mom’s voice and I looked up to see her running around with an American flag. That really calmed me down because it gave me a sense of being at home.”

It took a little bit of generosity from the community to get her parents to the games. Shortly after qualifying, Price set up a GoFundMe page that amassed more than $18,000, allowing her parents to travel and stay in Rio.

“It was really heartwarming to see a community come together and the kindness they showed us was incredible,” Price’s mother Ann said. “I cried everyday with just how much support we received and it definitely shows what a great community we live in.”

The Price family left their door in Moscow Mills, Mo. — a town of 2,503 about an hour outside of St. Louis — unlocked so people could drop off money in the home. One donor dropped off a $100 bill and took a slice of cake off the family counter.

“We thought that was a little odd, so we began locking our door again after that,” Ann said with laughter.

Deanna Price, an SIU graduate from Moscow Mills, Mo., poses for a portrait Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. Price placed eighth in hammer throw, throwing 70.95 meters, at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

Deanna Price, an SIU graduate from Moscow Mills, Mo., poses for a portrait Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. Price placed eighth in hammer throw, throwing 70.95 meters, at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. (Ryan Michalesko | @photosbylesko)

For Price, the experience was just as big as the performance.

“You watch the Olympics as a kid over and over again and to be there was phenomenal,” she said. “To compete in front of thousands and thousands of fans with millions of more watching gave me a platform to show others that this could be their future.”

While most athletes resided in lavish apartment complexes, the one Price and her fellow teammates stayed in wasn’t ready a few months prior to the games.

“The [United States Olympic Committee] actually had to hire their own contractors to finish the building before we arrived,” she said. “You can tell a lot about a country from their sewage system and we weren’t allowed to flush paper products. So we had to carry stuff like that out in plastic doggie bags.”

Outside of competing, Price had encounters with some of the top athletes for the United States. She ran into Venus and Serena Williams, talked to USA women’s basketball team member Brittney Griner, watched beach volleyball players Kerri Walsh-Jennings and April Ross and had an unexpected meeting with an all-time great athlete.

“You mostly hang out with your team, so everywhere you go you’re bound to run into someone,” she said. “When the elevator opened next thing I knew I’m standing next to Michael Phelps.”

Then-senior thrower DeAnna Price throws the hammer throw on March 26 at the Bill Cornell Spring Classic. (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

Then-senior thrower Deanna Price throws the hammer throw on March 26 at the Bill Cornell Spring Classic. (DailyEgyptian.com file photo)

Embracing the celebrity lifestyle back home has been a relatively easy transition for Price.

Despite constantly getting stopped around town, Price said she’s more than happy to talk to anyone who greets her.

“It may be the thousandth time you’ve had to meet someone but it’s their first time meeting you so you want to leave a good impression,” she said. “You want to show others that athletes are people too and not just jocks so you always want to be kind and respectful to everyone.”

With the Olympics over, the American collegiate record holder plans on settling back into life in Carbondale before training for the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London and the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

These events will be small steps in Price’s plan to compete in the Olympics once again.

“The goal is to compete … in 2020, but for now I’m just taking it year by year because you never know what can happen,” she said. “But to experience the Olympics again is definitely on my radar.”

Staff writer Ted Ward can be reached at [email protected] or @TedWard_DE.

To stay up to date with all your SIU news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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