This excerpt of an article was originally published in the May 23, 2008 issue of the North Shore Sun as Amy Linnen prepared for one last shot at the Olympics.
Amy Linnen can see the finish line looming ahead. For 10 years she’s dedicated her life to the pole vault, a sport that’s fulfilled her dreams more than she could have ever imagined.
But for any great athlete, time catches up. The athleticism that propels them to such great feats doesn’t last forever, not by a long shot.
In the summer of 2007, Linnen took her first extended break from pole-vaulting in years. Injuries had began to pile on. Suddenly skying more than 14 feet in the air wasn’t as easy, as if skying more than 14 feet in the air could ever be considered easy.
“I wasn’t sure whether I should continue with it or not,” said Linnen, a 2000 Mount Sinai graduate. “Just because of how many injuries I accumulated and how many sacrifices I made toward my family and loved ones.”
Linnen had reached the crossroads.
She had already established herself as one of the nation’s best pole-vaulters, even if her best may have been behind her. She had set the state record as a high school student. At the University of Arizona she won the NCAA Division I indoor title as a sophomore. She twice competed in the Olympic Qualifiers (2000 and 2004).
As Linnen relaxed on Long Island beaches she thought about how much she loved the sport.
“I didn’t want to end it that way,” she said. “I wanted to make sure I finished what I started.”
Linnen set her sights on the 2008 Olympic Qualifiers, set for June 27 through July 6 in Eugene, Ore. More than 1,000 athletes will venture west in hopes of clinching a spot to Beijing. Linnen hopes to be one of them.
Before she can book a plane ticket to Oregon, she still needs to reach the qualifying mark at a sanctioned event. Her next chance will come this weekend at a meet in Albany. After that is the Reebok Grand Prix at Randall’s Island May 31. To earn a trip to her third Olympic Qualifier she’ll need to clear 4.445 meters, or 14 feet, 7 inches, a mark she’s done plenty of times before. But with limited sponsorships, Linnen hasn’t had many opportunities to travel to the few sanctioned meets where a qualifying standard can be posted.
Seven women have officially qualified through Tuesday and another eight have had marks verified on a provisional basis.
“I have the confidence and the talent,” she said. “I just haven’t had the opportunity to really make it happen yet. I’m hoping the next meet will be the one.”
At the ’04 Olympic Trials in Sacramento, Calif. Linnen placed 11th at 13-09 1/4. Stacy Dragila was the top American, clearing 15-07.
“The second time I was definitely more prepared and I really had a shot,” she said. “I definitely had the credibility and the talent to prove myself.”