Deirdre and Michael Mai have been preparing for the London Olympic Games for longer than they have known each other. While their preparation continues, their roles recently changed when life intervened.
“Initially the goal was to both make the Olympic team,” Deirdre said. “But sometimes God has another plan. We are just so excited.”
Deirdre smiled when she said she was putting her Olympic dreams on hold after becoming pregnant with the couple’s first child. And it is definitely a happy time as Deidre’s focus now changes from Team USA Olympic high jump hopeful to supportive wife and expectant mother.
They continue to dream of a trip to London this summer, but instead the hope is it will be their first official trip with their new family.
“Once we got married we were open to starting a family,” Michael said, who will continue his push to make the Olympic team in the hammer throw. “If it happened we were going to be happy about it.”
Deirdre’s athletic future
Deirdre remains uncertain of the next stages as a professional high jumper.
“For me I will have to play it by ear,” she said. “A lot of people say they will retire, but you never know.”
Deirdre was quick to identify women who have had children and made a quick return to the elite level in the sport. Most notably Chaunte Lowe, who returned to competition for the 2012 indoor season after giving birth to her second child. She to set the American indoor record, won the indoor Visa Championship Series and won the World Indoor gold medal in the high jump.
Deirdre definitely has the ability. She finished the 2011 season ranked #3 in the U.S. by Track & Field News and placed fourth at last year’s USA Outdoor Championships.
Whatever the future holds, Deirdre is happy with her current role of being her husband’s number one fan.
“I will certainly be booking my ticket,” she said about the Olympic Games if Michael is able to make the team. “It will be different being a spectator. I’m used to being in the middle of everything and this will be a nerve-wracking place to be.”
Michael continues his preparation
For Michael, his training continues with little interruption. Competing in his third Olympic Trials, he feels this is his best chance yet to make the Olympic team. He was ranked #2 in the U.S. in 2011 and currently holds the third-best throw in the country this season. He remains confident he can reach the Olympic “A” standard of 78.00m/255-11.
“My training has been going better than it ever has,” he said. “At this point in my career you can never say for sure you are going to be back. This is the first time I have been able to train all year. I think I have a great chance at the ‘A’ standard and hitting that is the goal.”
In addition to the start of their family and Michael’s push toward the Olympic Games, the Mai’s will be awaiting deployment orders for Michael later this year. An Army career that has spanned the last 12 years, it will be Michael’s first deployment since 2006 and since meeting Deirdre.
Michael credits much of his success to the Army World Class Athlete program, which has been in place since 1990 to help athletes like Michael continue to serve and still chase their Olympic dream. The program has also helped athletes such as race walker John Nunn, who qualified for the Olympic Games by winning the Trials for the 50 km race walk in January.
“The program has been great to really help me break through and have the opportunity to make the Olympic team,” Michael said. “The World Class program is great in terms of having the opportunity to get you everything you need. A lot of the times athletes don’t have the kind of resources they need. This program I think is the best program you can have.”
Updated bios for Deirdre and Michael Mai can be found on www.usatf.org.