God’s light shines brightly for Olympic hammer-thrower

USA TODAY Sports via Reuters
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Being at Olympic Village in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, and preparing for competiton will be an intense experience for Deanna Price, but she's relaxed knowing that the village has a chapel.

A third-place finish in the women's hammer throw at the Olympic trials sealed her spot on the team, which will be representing the United States in Rio de Janeiro.

Deanna attended Immaculate Conception School in Old Monroe, Troy Buchanan High School and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. She's stayed close to her Catholic faith as she's advanced in her sport.

Parishioners at Immaculate Conception are among her supporters. Back home for a quick visit recently, she attended church with her parents. A surprise reception was held after Mass.

The parishioners are among those who responded to a GoFundMe account Deanna set up to pay for her parents to go to Rio de Janiero for the Olympics. She set up the fund even though her parents didn't ask for help, believing others need the money more. But donors were pleased to help. "It blows my mind," Deanna said, "I could not be more thankful."

Deanna told parishioners that she'd be happy to assist them in any way, but "they don't want anything in return," she said. "They're just loving and awesome people. I wake up in the morning, and I just have a smile on my face because everyone has been so kind. It's kind of a dream come true."

The GoFundMe account sought $18,000, and the goal was met.

Her parents, Dan and Ann Price, lost their jobs in 2008. Dan had worked for a company 15 years, and it took him four years to get a job. Ann got a new job and saw her pay cut in half to $12 an hour.

"We almost lost our house," Deanna said.

The Olympic athlete knew that the only way she could afford college was with an athletic scholarship. She had offers to play softball and one in track and field, a partial scholarship at SIU. She prayed about it, and chose SIU, knowing that she'd have to borrow money. "I said, 'Mom and Dad, I have a feeling, a feeling that I should do this.'"

God has a plan, Deanna said: "It's all God. God has done everything for my family."

Her parents always are supportive of others, and seeing that people notice that is reassuring, Deanna said. "You hear all the bad things in the world (yet) the good has just been overflowing. It's been overshining the dark a lot."

Having God in her corner makes a difference. "There are times when I get aggravated at other people, and I realize that I start judging them," she said. People have choices in their actions, Deanna said, "so my thing is to just love them unconditionally. God is the one in the end one who will judge."

When she injured her knee in 2014, she went to church and prayed about what to do next. "He just gives endless strength and possibilities," she said of God. "You don't realize the chances and opportunities He gives you, even though it may come in a negative way. It may be a challenge to bear and a cross of burden, but when you get through it, it teaches you more about yourself and your faith."

When "you think no one is in your corner and you're so upset, then you look back and realize He was there the whole time and He helped through the whole thing."

Deanna has been to Costa Rica, Canada, China, Japan and Spain. With competitions on weekends, she sometimes misses Mass on Sundays. So she takes time to pray the Rosary and thank God for what He's given her — an opportunity to do her best, the tools to use her skills to her advantage — and prays for strength to do His will.

Ann Price said many people helped her daughter along the way. She excelled at softball from a young age, then in high school tried basketball and track and field to keep in shape. She had success in the discus and shot put and went to the state track meet her freshman year.

Deanna was introduced to the hammer throw at the end of her junior year by a volunteer coach, Gary Cooper. John Smith recruited her for SIU, coached until this year by Connie Price-Smith, a four-time Olympian. J.C. Lambert was her coach this year.

Ann said that she knows that Deanna's fate in the Olympic trials was God's will. "You have to put the work in," Ann said, and accept what follows.

The support of the community brought Ann to tears. "We live in a very good community of people who care and are there for you — the whole Lincoln County area. It makes you feel renewed in people, and the light shines."

A 12-year-old donated the proceeds from the sale of his hog at a 4-H fair to help with Deanna's expenses since she doesn't have a sponsor. Other people started pitching in money and said they were inspired by the "USA pig." At the highway exit in Old Monroe, hoops were placed on a fence arranged and with the colors of the Olympic rings, with an American flag and a sign, "We're pulling for you, Deanna." 

Deanna Price

Age: 23

Parish: Immaculate Conception, Old Monroe

High School: Troy Buchanan in Troy, 2011

College: Southern Illinois University, '16, Accounting

World Championship Experience

• Most recent: 2015 – 10th in qualification heat 1

• Years of participation: Outdoor – 2015

• Top finish: 10th in qualification heat 1 – 2015

Other Career Highlights: 2015 Pan American Games, 4th

Personal: In 2015, became only the fifth woman in NCAA history to win back-to-back hammer throw titles, and the first since 2007 ... Has only one kidney ... Has endured several injuries throughout her career, including a dislocated shoulder, broken scapula, torn abdominal, torn MCL, and a stretched ACL and PCL

Source: Team USA 

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