LACY BARNES-MILEHAM Born December 23, 1964 in Ridgecrest, Ca 5-6/1.68m 165lbs./75kg Burroughs HS, Ridgecrest, Ca '83 Fresno State '88 PR (outdoor): SP 47-3/14.40m '88 DT 208-6/63.56m '96 JT 164-0/49.98m '88 Major Meets (Discus): 1984 9)NCAA 1985 2)NCAA 1986 8)USA 1987 2)NCAA 6)USA 1988 2)NCAA 1)USA 14q)Olympic Trials 1989 2)USA 1990 2)USA 1991 1)USA 3)Pan American Games 17q)World Championships 1992 6)Olympic Trials 1993 7)USA 1994 2)USA 1995 14q)USA 1996 2)Olympic Trials 30q)Olympic Games
If Professor of Psychology Lacy Barnes ever teaches a seminar in "The Psychology of Competition," rest assured her performance in the 1996 Olympic Trials discus final will be one of the case studies.
Twice before, she had opportunities to make the Olympic team. With three number one U.S. rankings to her credit, that Olympic berth seemed overdue. But twice before, she had failed. The last time, in 1992, she had been the favorite to win.
"As my coach put it," remembers Barnes-Mileham of the '96 Trials, "there was a 'little demon'. I was out there, and could visualize him snapping at me. I had to fight him off, fight him off, because I had had two bad experiences at Trials.
"Sure enough, it started out pretty ugly, but it was just one of those beliefs within myself that I should be on an Olympic team. The third time is the charm. I tried to put things in perspective as far as training and all the hard work that I put in."
The worry, at least on paper, was that Barnes-Mileham wouldn't even get her last three throws. She only advanced thanks to a 21-inch margin that her sub-par first throw of 183-5 gave her. Amazingly, the close call didn't even rattle her. "It's really strange," she says. "It wasn't scary at all. In a very surreal sort of way, I knew that I would be all right. I wasn't worried. I didn't flip. I may have looked stiff and not very conscious of my behavior. But I had a stillness about me that knew that this time I would make the team."
In the fourth round, she heaved the disc out to 195-9 to move from seventh place into second. "It kind of came together, at least to some degree," she says. "I was disappointed, because I should have won it. I was disappointed that I didn't throw or compete within myself. I was all over the place."
She reflects, "The bottom line is, even though it was pretty ugly and it was kind of close, I didn't feel stress. And that's fine."
Making the team was only one of the highlights of the Olympic year for her. The other was an early season meet in San Diego, where she launched the platter out to 208-6, her first PR in four years. "It was extremely emotional," she volunteers. "I was frustrated because I hadn't shown any improvement in distance [in the three years she has been with her coach]. It all kind of came together, and it was as if someone had taken a couple of buildings off my shoulders. And it was one of those situations where it confirmed my belief, but it had been a long time coming."
Did she celebrate? "I lost it," she admits. "I had to pass my second round."
Barnes-Mileham's banner year came about because of a new direction she took three years ago. So disgusted was she with her '92 Trials performance that she threw her discus into the garage, where it rusted. Her husband, Matt Mileham (a two-time Olympian in the hammer for Great Britain), encouraged her to reconsider and give the Games one last shot.
Recounts Barnes-Mileham, "I started training with a coach, Scott Semar, my only real serious coach. I made up my mind to try it again, and my main focus was to stay healthy. So all of our training was geared toward staying physically fit. My motto was 'leave nothing to chance.'
"Try and do anything and everything possible that would lower the possibility of not making the team. And that's what we did. I took care of the mental aspects by seeing a psychologist. I took care of the physical aspects by working closely with an exercise physiologist, and I trained my butt off."
Semar, who coached prep superstars Dawn Dumble and Melisa Weis in high school, oversaw the technical aspects of her throwing. Mileham, no stranger to the weight room, supervised his wife's lifting.
One would think the training routine would have made the house something of an athletic camp, with one Olympian, one hopeful, and one future prospect. At 16, daughter Cecelia Barnes-Mileham is one of the country's leading high school throwers.
"We have a very weird family," says Barnes-Mileham. "Cecelia sees this as a neat experience but at the same time she's not awestruck by it. This is part of her reality. We teach her that sport is sport. We focus our energies elsewhere. Sport to her is something that is very natural and she's good at it. We're impressed by her academics, and the sport is the icing on the cake."
The emphasis on academics is something Barnes-Mileham has taught through example. "My attitude in track is something that I have in all areas of my life," she says. "I not only excelled in track but I did in academics as well. The balance of those two things has been a stabilizer for me. Achieving my masters degree is something that I'm very, very proud of."
A one-time sprinter, Barnes-Mileham competed in the 100, 200 and long jump until a kidney removal in seventh grade slowed her down. When she returned to the team the next year, her coaches helped her make the transition. "Instead of letting me quit," she says, "they said, 'throw these'. One happened to be round and one happened to be flat."
That fortuitous development led her to the Olympic Games, where she found the hunger to extend her long career even longer. "I did all I could do in the competition," she says. "It was disappointing to me. It was one of my lowest marks of the year, and I just performed under my abilities, and that's what disappointed me the most." Being the top American wasn't a consolation. "Let's put that in perspective. Where are we? I'm trying to make a difference there. I hope to eventually put USA women's discus throwing back on the map."
How long can she go? "Until I can't find a bandaid strong enough to hold things in place," she laughs. "I don't know. Until I feel self-actualized. I'll know when, I think."
Mom's not planning to step out of the way anytime soon for the next generation. "Cecelia's going to have to knock me off the pedestal. She's going to have to work hard."
Before then, Barnes-Mileham hopes to see an American record. ("I don't think that's unrealistic.") So she keeps throwing. "It's not the money. It's because it's there. That mountain thing. It's self-fulfillment to know what you're capable of, pushing the envelope. I think that my belief or my expectations haven't been realized yet so I continue to do it so that I can get those two things in line."