This was supposed to be Jim Steacy's Olympics. It was supposed to be his time to strive for the podium, until debilitating foot and ankle injuries took away nearly two years of his training.
But you won't hear any complaints coming from Steacy (BASc '09), who will be competing in his second Olympic Games in London. Instead, you'll get the perspective of an athlete who knows just how fortunate he is to have the chance to perform on the Olympic stage.
"I really feel grateful going in," says Steacy, the eight-time national hammer throw champion, Canadian record holder and Horns Athletics product. "There's 45 athletes on the track team and only seven of us who have been on the team before, so to have the opportunity again is a blessing and not something I take for granted."
Injuries have not made Steacy bitter; rather they have reinforced his will and put into perspective just what it means to be an Olympian.
"After the injuries that I had in 2010 and 2011, it was seriously in question as to whether or not I'd make the Olympic team again or even if I would compete again," he says.
"It's been a rough four years but it's taught me to appreciate things a lot more and to take things for granted a lot less. Getting to do what I do is something that one percent of one percent of people get to do, so I'm definitely proud and honoured to be a part of the team again."
Competing in Beijing in 2008, Steacy qualified for the Olympic final and managed a respectable 12th-place finish. For a 24-year-old in a sport where age and experience play huge roles, he was seen to be on the fast track to a podium performance in London. A broken foot and torn ankle ligaments have changed the expectation level.
"A medal opportunity is definitely a possibility in 2016 if he continues to throw. Making the final this year would be a good stepping stone in that direction," says his coach Larry Steinke. "He had 18 to 20 months where he wasn't able to train, period, and there's no shortcut to getting back to the top level. It's simply a matter of time, getting the volume of throws in and getting the timing back – it takes time."
Steacy echoes the words of his coach and is fully committed to being ready to attack the podium in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
"I'm not going to be at my peak performance or at my prime in London, so for me, a successful experience is making it into the final," he says. "I'll try and claw my way in, throw a season's best and if I do that, it'll be a tremendously successful experience. So the shift in focus is to four years from now in Rio. If I can stay healthy and do things right in training and rehab, there's no reason I shouldn't be on the podium."
Steacy is grateful for the support he's been shown over the years, and especially during the struggles of the past two years.
"Being an athlete and trying to get to this level is not an individual thing. You have to rely so much on your family and friends, coaches, your physio teams to get there," he says, giving a nod to the University community that came out to support the athletes at an Olympic Send-off Celebration before the group jetted to London.
"Knowing you have the support of the community behind you, you wan to do well for them. They took the time out of their day to come wish us well and we want to thank them and perform well for them."
Hammer Throw Qualifying – Friday, Aug. 3 at 11:20 a.m. GMT (5:20 a.m. MDT)
Hammer Throw Final – Sunday, Aug. 5 at 8:20 p.m. GMT (2:20 p.m. MDT)