On Her Way To Olympic Gold!
May The Games Begin…
By Belinda Trotter James
It takes endurance, mental strength, patience with yourself and a list of ‘to do’s’ to be considered an Olympian athlete. If you don’t know her already, let me in introduce you to Chantae McMillan, a USA Olympic heptathlete who qualified to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Now she is training to be in the 2015 Olympics in Beijing China and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
What does a woman have to do to be a heptathlete? Well, the women's outdoor heptathlon consists of 100 meters hurdles, High jump, Shot put plus 200 meters on the first day, and then Long jump, Javelin throw and 800 meters on day two. The heptathlon has been contested by female athletes since the early 1980’s when it replaced the pentathlon as the primary women's combined event contest.
Almost every story I’ve ever heard of an Olympian champion always starts with the story of how they started out at a very young age. The parents would have to travel hours to get to a particular coach or practice daily in hopes of becoming an Olympic champion one day. I’m guessing Chantae is going to tell me a similar story. "Oh no, no, no… everything was local,” starts Chantae. “We had a basketball team that was set up and the furthest we probably traveled was about one hour and then once track started it was organized by the high school. I didn't do anything extra. I just did what any normal kid would do in high school.”
Some kids know at a very young age that they would like to have an Olympic career. However, that’s not Chantae’s story. "No I started track in the eighth grade because my friends and I couldn't play soccer so we did track and then I had the discussion with my mother on if track or soccer would have a better route for me and we decided on track in the end. Then I got recruited out of high school for the long triple jump and went to the University of Nebraska where I became a heptathlete and I just got better and better throughout college and the Olympic trials became more of a reality.”
Wow! Chantae started her Olympic journey in the eighth grade. The first question that came to mind is why did she start so late in life to pursue being on the USA Olympic team? She responds, "The Olympics wasn't even on my radar at that point. I was just enjoying sports… soccer, basketball and the next sport I became involved in was volleyball and then track. I was just having fun playing sports and being active. If I look back at it, I wouldn't change it for anything. I think I am doing exactly everything correctly and I'm exactly where I need to be so I wouldn't say it was a late start. I just encourage parents to get their kids active in something and then those kids are going to find out what they love and continue down that path.”
At least Chantae had a chance to have a childhood and friends from first to seventh grade and just enjoy being a kid. Chantae adds, "Right. Exactly. I was outside playing in the streets; I loved that.” She laughs remembering back to when being a child was fun and carefree instead of constantly being at some sort of practice.
Chantae grew up in Tennessee, Texas and Missouri because both of her parents were in the Army for 20 years each. Her coach was in Ohio and that's where she trains. “My parents were really fortunate because they didn't have to move a lot. The first eight years of my life we stayed in Tennessee Fort Campbell, then two years in Texas and Missouri for five years and then I went to college. I didn't have to move a lot, but my mom did have to leave me to go to Korea for one year so that I could stay in the same high school for four years.”
Most athletes just like doing one thing and becoming good at it. It takes a special athlete to take on a series of skills and participate in various events to become excellent at all of them. It also means more time practicing to perfect each skill. What type of person would put themselves through the strenuous exercises to become a heptathlete? "I had a really bad triple jump injury coming out of high school”, remembers Chantae. “So I didn't want to triple jump anymore ever again and that left me with doing the long jump, but then seven events just sounded very intriguing for some reason and I wanted a challenge so I asked if I could switch over to that and that's what I did."
Wow, training for seven events must mean her social life is really down the drain, but she disagreed and said, "No, actually I just spoke about that to my sports psychologist. I was wondering if having too many friends was a distraction and she said, ‘No’, she thinks that it’s good for me to grow as a whole person because as I walk on the track, its not just Chantae the track athlete, it’s Chantae and every other aspect of my life walking on the track."
Having friends to give you a mental break from always thinking about competing is a good thing. However, in any phase of life you will have to choose what types of friends to have around you. The best ones are the friends who have the same interests. In this way they will understand your busy training schedule that could put a strain on any relationship.
If you want to be a world class athlete, get ready to hear what a typical day is like in the life of an athlete… “Right now I wake up about 7:15 to get ready for practice at nine”, says Chantae. “I work on my sprint mechanics and endurance for the 100 hurdles and 200 meter dash… Then I just do general exercises after that. The general exercises are a replacement for my lifting exercises. I only lift two days a week… Tuesdays and Thursdays because I have great genetics where I can build muscles very easily and my coach knows that and does not want me to blow up by lifting four days a week. I'm okay with just doing push ups, sit ups, body squats and at least 10 other exercises like that daily… and that was my Monday. Everyday I work on something different. I have high jump on Wednesdays, 800 work on Tuesdays, long jump on Fridays... it's fine because everyday is different. I'm learning everyday is a challenge and my mind is always working through it so it’s fine; I’m never bored. If I only had one event to do, I would be so bored.” For that reason alone tells me why she was born to be a heptalthete.
In any sports athletes can hit the gym to tone and sculpture their body to perfection, but there is always concern for keeping injuries to a minimum. In every athlete’s life, there will be challenges to face and overcome when it comes to the care of a healthy body. “In 2011 I ruptured my patellar-tendon high jumping at a track meet and I started rehabbing in Nebraska,” reveals Chantae. “Right after that meet I was supposed to move to Ohio to start training for the 2012 trials, but that injury put me back and I ended up in Pittsburgh to do my rehab with a trainer that my coach thought would be a great trainer to do my rehab… and so I went to Pittsburgh
We had no doubts that I wasn't going to make it to the 2012 trials. It was definitely a setback to tear something, but I think it just made me better overall because I was able to hit all my weak muscles that I wasn't using. Only a trainer would know that and I got my body in the best shape. I lost some weight that I needed to lose from college… that was at six months and I had four more months to be on track before the Olympic trials. My coach whipped me into shape and got me the great technical work that I needed. He switched my takeoff leg for long jump and high jump. He taught me all that and it’s still pretty hard for me today to learn all that new stuff. This has probably been some of the biggest obstacles I've had to face this year. In the past two years I had to deal with on and off injuries with my knees being over trained on a program built specifically for me. It was hard to deal with because I wasn't performing like I knew how. I wasn't good and it really hurt my confidence. So I'm still really in the stages of rebuilding my confidence right now and becoming the great athlete that I know how to be with the coach that I trust so much with my future. So I'm so thankful to be here again.” What looked like a setback was actually a set up for victory in Chantae’s quest for Gold! Sometimes life will give you a test to see if what you asked for is what you really want.
Even though Chantae has a tight training schedule she does make time to participate in community organizations. "There's actually a program called Athletes For Help,” says Chantae. “They helped me get into the Cincinnati Children's Hospital. I get to visit with the children, take pictures with them and just make their days a little better. I'm certified as a personal trainer; I have a degree in education. I don't think I want to teach, but I do like working with kids. I like training them. I had a chance to train some children in Florida before I left and it was super fun."
Fans can help Chantae in her journey to the 2015 USA Olympic World Team in the heptathlon which takes place in Beijing, China and then off to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro by making a donation of any size. In return you can request a workout that is customized specifically for your body type to achieve great results. Just go to her website at www.chantaemcmillan.com to fill out the workout request and make your donation through Pay pal. Check out heron Instagram instagram.com/chan_taemac and on twitter http://www.twitter.com/chan_taemac
“Thank you so much for your support; it means the world! Can’t wait to see ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures!” --- Chantae