Janay DeLoach won a bronze medal in long-jump at the London 2012 Olympics but there is a lot more to her than just jumping into a sandpit for a living.
The shocking truth is that she prefers basketball to track! “I got as many offers for scholarships for basketball as for track”, she told me. “But I was getting less money for basketball than for track and field. So because I got a hefty, not quite full, scholarship for track and field, for me it was a means to an end because I actually loved basketball more than track. I wanted to go to a D1 school and I wanted to have that education so I made the choice for the money and the education it was going to afford me”.
2012 was a great year for her. First she took a silver in the World indoors in Istanbul with 6.98, then she jumped 7.03 (a PR) in the US championships and then 6.89 for bronze in London. She looks back on London as “some of the fondest memories by far. It was a surreal moment. Going into the Olympics I did not have any expectations other than to enjoy myself and have fun and to do the exact same thing I did to get there. That is what made me so successful. But I think my fondest moment of that whole Olympic experience was standing on the bronze medal podium. And I got to hear my national anthem because Brittney Reese had won and you don’t always get to do that. But I went to the Olympic and medalled – how many people do that? A small proportion. So that was my proudest moment, standing on the podium, even in third place and hearing my national anthem was very surreal”.
Then needing another challenge she took up hurdling and in 2014 finished 5th in the World Final (7.90) – not bad for someone who had just taken up hurdling. “When I started hurdles it was like a door opened. And I fell in love with the sport again and that was how it worked”. And, in case you did not know it, the two events are similar. Janay explains, “Believe it or not hurdles and long jump correlate very well together because of timing. Having that hand eye coordination is important because you have to adjust to the board, where you are on the board, just as you have to adjust to where you are getting over the hurdles because you don’t want a crash and you don’t want to scratch a big jump”.
With a degree in Psychology she had been interested in becoming a counsellor of some sort. She continues: “My undergraduate degree was in psychology, human development and family studies and I thought I was going to go the route of marriage and family therapist. But I wanted something which also had an interest in physical therapy”.
Then she discovered occupational therapy which seemed to combine the physical with the cognitive aspects by helping people through those things which are affecting them physically. In 2009 she was accepted onto an internship which lasted until 2012. As she points out at one stage she was not only training for long jump and hurdles but also working 40 hours a week as well.
Now that she has obtained her Master’s in OT she finds her work very fulfilling. “I wanted to help people and Occupational Therapy is exactly that. I get to see people come into hospital on a gurney, not able to walk, with one side of their body shattered or static, unable to move it. So to be able to put in the hard work to help them walk again, is a privilege. Sometimes I am literally carrying their weight for them. Helping them to learn to walk again, to learn to feed themselves to look after their kids and cook for themselves. It is very rewarding feelings that you are able to contribute to a person’s livelihood and their quality of life. I love that idea that I’m able to do that”.
In July 2018, she became involved in a camp called. Podium Performance All Sports Speed Camp. It is way of giving back to Fort Collins and thanking the town for all of the support she’s found there. She explains: “I believe that track and field is the foundation for acquiring speed and learning how to be fast. And I’m offering to the Northern Colorado youth the chance to get faster and more agile regardless of what sport they are in”.
She is also pregnant and expecting a daughter in May. Her retirement from track and field has been reported in the press but, like Mark Twain, she feels the reports are greatly exaggerated: “I’m willing to go one way or the other according to how I feel and how my body feels and according to whether I feel I’m able to come back or not. I’m playing it by ear right now but I’m never going to say ‘never’. I’m not going to retire and give it all up before I know. They do say that athletes, after having a baby, have mom’s strength. And if that’s the case I love the sport so much I would be willing to put in the work again because I’ve been there before and I know I can do it”.
Don’t be surprised if you see Janay Deloach competing again. After all apart from being a mom and working as an OT, how is she going to fill her days if she is not training!