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Mantecan to vie for spot on Olympic team

Haapanen appreciates past struggles, recent outpouring of support

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Mantecan to vie for spot on Olympic team

Amy Haapanen works on her technique in the hammer throw Friday at Delta College while training for next week’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

Photo by Iris Haapanen/


POSTED June 16, 2012 2:31 a.m.

From the 2008 Trials to the 2012 Trials, Amy Haapanen has labored through her fair share of, well, trials.

The 28-year-old Olympic hopeful from Manteca has an appreciation for past struggles that have led to current success as a professional hammer thrower.

She will compete in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Track & Field Trials next Thursday at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. The hammer throw is the only event that will not take place at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field.

Haapanen — a 2002 East Union High graduate and All-American performer at UC Santa Barbara — placed 14th out of 23 competitors in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials.

“I recently watched a video of myself competing in the Trials back in 2008,” Haapanen said. “I was a little taken aback at how different I look now compared to then. My technique has come a long way.

“Back then my goal was to make the Trials. Four years later, my goal is to make the (U.S. Olympic) team.”

She has come a long ways since 2008 and in many ways.

On May 17, she took first in the Tucson Elite Classic with a mark of 69.88 meters (229 feet, 3 inches) — a new personal record.

Haapanen has reached milestones beyond the hammer ring as well.

Last summer she was awarded a $3,500 grant from the Women’s Sports Foundation Travel and Training Fund with an additional $1,000 coming from the USA Track & Field Pacific Association.

Since then she has gained sponsorships from the likes of J.M. Equipment and the 24-Hour Fitness in town, and she has a website — fundrazr.com/campaigns/aJHMd — set up for folks who want to chip in.

Haapanen said that Sharpe Depot in Lathrop has offered to build her a hammer ring but is in need of rebar to make it happen.

She trains up to three times a day, starting with morning sessions at East Union, then an afternoon workout at Delta College or Modesto Junior College. It ends with weight training at 24-Hour Fitness at night.

Haapanen works part-time at Holiday Inn Express, and she follows a rigid training schedule. With financial help from local businesses, she can worry less about paying for travel (to train and compete), entry fees for meets and hammer equipment.

“I can look back and really appreciate all that I went through,” Haapanen said. “I lived in the Midwest for two years, in the UK for a half year and did meets in Europe, so travel expense was always an issue. Figuring out a lot of that stuff on my own is such a huge lesson in getting something done no matter what. It’s a real test of how dedicated you really want to be.

“I really feel like I’ve stepped up to the challenge. All those years of riding buses, counting pennies and training with holes in my shoes made me a tougher athlete, but it also makes me appreciate the support that I do get and I try to use it in the most productive way.”

Everything appears to be coming together at the right time for Haapanen.

Last year, she placed fifth in the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships — her best finish at the meet. And she has only gotten better since.

The top three placers at the Team Trials will compete in the London Olympics in the summer. She will likely have to clear 70 meters to have a chance. The top-six seeded entrants have each surpassed the 70-meter barrier, including Nike-sponsored Jessica Cosby and Amber Campbell. Haapanen checks in with the seventh best seeded mark.

“I know I have it in me — it’s within reach,” Haapanen said. “On some of my throws that went 69 meters I felt myself falling backwards. There are little things here and there that if I do right I am for sure going over 70.”

Haapanen has done well to have made it this far.

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