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Lacy Janson soars toward Olympic dream
1:51 PM, Jul 5, 2012 | 1 Comments
NoleSports.com multimedia reporter
Lacy Janson was a gymnast at age seven.
At the time aunts, uncles, and family friends would casually ask Janson if she was going to make it to the Olympics one day.
For the first grader, the answer seemed simple. Of course she was going to make it to the Olympics. How hard could it be?
More than two decades later, Janson knows exactly how hard it can be. And, yes, she can finally call herself an Olympian.
The six-time All-American pole vaulter from Florida State grabbed the final spot on the U.S. Olympic team clearing 14 feet, 9 inches during the track and field trials at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., last week.
“I still tell people it doesn’t really feel real,” Janson said with a smile.
“I’m very happy. Just glad that I did what I knew I could do.”
But at 29, the Tallahassee resident will tell you qualifying for the Olympics was more difficult than she could have ever imagined.
This was Janson’s third trip to the trials in her 13-year career. In 2004, the Sarasota native never left the ground, running through all three of her attempts at the opening height.
The 2008 trials were different. Janson — a FSU junior at the time — was setting personal bests, coming off of one of the most impressive seasons of her career, before her 10th place finish at the trials.
“This is a sport that has longevity because you develop your technique, and your mental skills, and everything through the course of your 10-15 year career. That has really started to show now for me,” Janson said.
"But the process is very difficult because you see potential … and we’re (she and her coach, FSU’s Dennis Nobles) finally starting to reap the rewards of all this hard work, all these years, and all this time.”
Janson still remembers the moment when the sport first sparked her interest.
It was the summer of 1996 and Janson, in the eighth grade, was babysitting. After the kids went to sleep, she turned on the Olympics. The Decathlon pole vault was on, and the Atlanta Games featured Dan O'Brien — one of the best decathlon athletes of the 1990s.
“I clearly remember thinking, I could never do that,” Janson said laughing.
“I thought the box was the size of a doughnut. So you have to run really fast, and aim it right into that little doughnut hole, and then do all the rest…”
For awhile that memory was put on hold.
Gymnastics behind her, Janson turned to volleyball at Cardinal Mooney High. By the end of her first prep season, the middle blocker had already calculated what it would take for her to make the U.S. Olympic volleyball team. She figured college volleyball was a must.
But after partaking in a competitive summer volleyball camp at FSU prior to her junior season, Janson decided to try track and field.
Her first time out on the track, she eyed the pole vault and remembered the ’96 Olympic Games. She had to see what it was all about.
In just her first season as a pole vaulter, her coach, John Raleigh, told her he thought she had a shot at the trials. He told her if she could make 13 feet she could qualify.
“That was the beginning,” Janson said. “He planted the seed.”
Now, 13 years later, that seed has grown into the most decorated women’s pole vaulter in the Atlantic Coast Conference, FSU history, and a 2012 U.S. Olympian.
But it wasn’t until Janson was fitted for the outfit she'll wear during the Olympic Opening Ceremonies on July 27 that her accomplishment began to truly set in.
“I’m taking it like any other summer competition. I’m going to go and have fun and enjoy it, and I’m going to compete,” Janson said.
“But I’m not putting any extra pressure on myself. I am taking the time to celebrate this. It is something special — a once in a lifetime moment.”
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