12. Aretha Thurmond – Discus
“That’s what really inspired me to make the effort to come back last year,” Ms. Thurmond told NBC. “If I could go out after having this baby and have the experience I had out there... having a decent performance. I said to myself, ‘I think I have a good chance of making the next Olympics.’ If things had turned out differently, I may have retired. Who knows?”
Thurmond finished 13th in her discus group on Aug. 3, failing to qualify for the final competition in the 2012 London Games. This is Ms. Thurmond’s fourth Olympics, making her the 16th woman to qualify for four Games. In 2008, she placed first at the Olympic trials, making her third Olympic team.
Thurmond is a four-time champion in US Outdoor track and field (2003, 2004, 2006, and 2008), and a three-time runner up (2009, 2011, and 2012). She won gold medals in the Pan American Games in 1999 and 2003. She made her Olympic debut in Atlanta in 1996 where she placed 34th. She barely missed the 2000 Olympic Games, placing fourth in the trials.
Thurmond has been throwing discus since 1991 when she lost a bet with her high school physical education teacher. She wanted to play softball and he wanted her to do track and field. They played a one-on-one basketball game to see who would win, and she lost. She went on to win three state titles in discus and received a scholarship to the University of Washington. She moved to Tennessee and then to Auburn, Alabama to train full time after graduation.