Here is a quick look into the glamorous but exhausting life of Brittany Smith, a young 19-meter shot putter trying to make it on the international circuit
Thursday, May 7
Brittany boards a flight from Chicago to Tokyo at around noon. It is the biggest plane she has ever seen (two levels) and even though the Wi-Fi doesn’t work the twelve-hour flight passes quickly. Strangely, upon arrival in Tokyo it is now Friday afternoon.
Sunday, May 10
Along with fellow American Felisha Johnson, Brittany competes in the Seiko Golden Grand Prix meet. In spite of some confusion involving warm-up logistics and phantom fouls called on her first two throws, Brittany finishes second with a very respectable 18.51m toss.
After the competition, she is shuttled to a hotel near the airport. The following morning she will embark for Shanghai and her first ever Diamond League meet.
Monday, May 11
Brittany arrives at the stadium in Shanghai intending to take some practice throws but is kicked out. She takes her shot and heads to the nearby warm-up track, which is completely dark. Luckily, she is carrying two phones (one for international calling) and uses them to light up the ring. This attracts the attention of several soldiers patrolling nearby. They begin cheering her practice throws.
Eventually they tell her, in broken English, that they would like to try some throws as well. Striking a blow for international relations, she agrees to share the ring.
Tuesday, May 12 to Saturday, May 16
Brittany and Felisha are joined by another fine American shot-putter, Tia Brooks. They spend the days leading up to the competition practicing at the warm-up track, lifting in a weight room adjacent to the stadium, walking around the city, occasionally taking a meal at McDonald’s (according to Britt, the food provided at the hotel was good but basically the same every day), napping (the jet lag seemed to get worse as the week wore on) and trying to ward off boredom until…
Sunday, May 17
Britt has never seen a 20-meter throw in person, but now finds herself warming up along side two athletes (Germany’s Christian Schwanitz and China’s Lijiao Gong) who have surpassed that distance in championship meets.
She watches herown first attempt a bit too long and ends up fouling it. On her second throw, the shot slips down her neck as she spins through the ring and ends up flying out of bounds to the left.
Sitting on two fouls, she feels the pressure to “get a mark” and throws a disappointing 17.76m.
Meanwhile Gong, cheered on by countrywomen Tianquian Guo and Yang Gao (according to Britt, there was a lot of screaming. Guo and Gao would scream as Gong entered the ring, and then Gong would rip off a nice one herself as she finished each throw) crushes a world-leading 20.23m.
Schwanitz hits 19.94m for second place.
Monday, May 18
Brittany boards the long flight back to Chicago at 4:00pm. Many hours later she arrives in the US at…5:00pm.
Wednesday, May 20
Struggling mightily with jet lag, Brittany graciously agrees to an interview. She is philosophical about her adventures abroad, recalling that her first trip to the NCAA meet as a freshman at Illinois State University did not go well, but that subsequent trips went very well (she was a several-time All-American in the shot and hammer).
She is not sure if she will compete again prior to the US championships, but is confident that should she earn a trip to Beijing for this summer’s World Championships, the experience she gained on her Far East adventure will come in very handy.