Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Kate the Great: Don't laugh at the javelin

Posted By on 08.07.12 at 06:45 AM

Kate the Great
  • The one, the only
When I was a kid I wanted to be Billie Jean King. I bought a pair of blue Adidas with money I'd saved from my paper route, and took to thwacking a tennis ball against the wall down in the basement. My parents didn't appreciate this abuse of their paneling. But at least I stopped short of trying to emulate one of my other heroes, the javelin thrower Kate Schmidt, aka Kate the Great.

Don't laugh at the javelin, buster. Back in the day, the javelins of the Trojans proved too much for Ajax (also nicknamed the Great, by the way). Getting hit by one is not much fun:

My parents didn't have much to worry about—I'm five-foot-three to Kate the Great's six-foot-one. At age 14 she just barely missed qualifying for the '68 Olympics. She went on to break the world record, and set an American record that stood for a couple of decades. She took Olympic bronze in the event in both '72 and '76, when I was banging around tennis balls.

That was a long time ago, of course, and Kate the Great kept a relatively low profile over the years. In 2007, after Marion Jones was stripped of her medals for steroid use, Schmidt wrote a provocative op-ed piece arguing for the legalization of performance-enhancing drugs. But, following her crumbs along the Google trail, I was most struck by her resolve after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of uterine cancer back in 1993:

If this is what I’ve been given, I might as well lean into it, learn from it, remain present and conscious for it, whether it’s a step along the way, or my way out.

Today Kate the Great's alive and well.

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