staff, July 11, 2012

Gia Lewis-Smallwood is a former discus thrower at Illinois who recently qualified for the 2012 London Olympics as a member of Team USA. In her first Big Ten Olympic journal for, she writes about what it's like to make the Olympics at the age of 33.  Read her first entry in this post and find more Big Ten Olympic journals here.

Gia Lewis-Smallwood will throw the discus for U.S. at the 2012 London Olympics. The former Illinois thrower and Champaign native is chronicling her first Olympic experience for Read all of our Olympic journals.

"I take a deep breath, open my eyes, pinch myself and realize I am going to the 2012 London Olympics. Finally after 11 years of training, 4,015 days, 5,781,600 minutes my dream is actually being realized and I could not be in more awe. For me, making the team has been a dream that only a select few even thought was possible. Why? because I'm 33 and some might say I'm way behind the game.

"For some of my U.S. teammates this is their third or fourth Olympic games. Essentially, that means they were making Olympic teams in their early twenties. Fortunately for me, age is not a limiting factor in the throwing events for track and field. You can perform remarkably well into your late thirties and even the forties. So, yes, I'm counting on that to be true.

"However, being an 'older' athlete making their first Olympic team has many advantages. First, you clearly and unequivocally know who you are. You have forgiven your faults and glory in all that truly and deeply defines who you are. You are able to recognize the beauty of this world and how you fit in. The interesting part is that you actually understand the importance of working in harmony to create a better reality for everyone. You have traded in insecurity for purpose, doubt for unwavering faith and the need for incessant approval for the wonderful silence within. While you love your sports career with your entire being, you understand that it is simply one part of your identity and not the only thing that defines you.

"As I am in the process for leaving for London I have increased my training schedule to ensure that I stay focused on the task at hand. But the older, wiser, me understands the importance of gratitude to everyone who has crossed my path and wished me well. So my focus leaving for the Olympic games is to be sure to thank and hug all those who have supported me throughout my life. That includes everyone whether you were my third grade teacher, my high school principal, my favorite college professor or teammates in high school and college.

"That is the beauty about being an older first time Olympian. You suddenly realize and appreciate the profound effect we have on each other."

Editor's note: Lewis was an All-American after placing fifth in the NCAA discus her senior year.  The 2001 Big Ten champion still holds the school record in the discus (189-6). Read more about Lewis-Smallwood on her bio page at