From the Olympics to Motherhood with Suzy Powell
By Justin Souza
Here’s a name to add to your list of famous Modestans, right alongside the likes of George Lucas and Jeremy Renner: Suzy Powell, a three-time Olympian, record setting discus thrower, and proud member of our local community.
Since the fifth grade, Powell’s life has been about the discus. She has been a phenomenon at the sport, from being named 1994’s Track & Field High School Athlete of the Year, to breaking the women’s U.S. discus record in 2007, to countless other accolades, awards, and record breaking throws. Powell created a name and a legacy to be remembered in athletics.
But in 2012, at the ripe old age of 35, Powell retired from the sport she’d devoted her life to and moved back to her hometown of Modesto for a chance to rest – and to enjoy the parts of her life that sometimes got overlooked in the rigors of training.
Being retired, Powell says, is pretty glorious.
“Being free of the demands of training is really great,” Powell said. “What I miss doing is competition and preparing for competition. That is something you prepare for mind, body and spirit, and I have yet to find something in my life that comes close to matching that all encompassing focus. I have a healthy fondness for those memories and those thoughts. But the reality is, to be competing, you have to put in long, boring hours of training. Whenever I romanticize the idea of competition, I remind myself that it comes at a pretty steep price.”
Powell and her husband are expecting their first child in September, something that she says wouldn’t have been possible for her during her athletics career.
“I get to do a lot of fun things now, like be a mom,” Powell said. “Enjoy my husband and family in a different way, and actually make it to family functions.”
Powell laughs at the normalcy of it, “those little things that make up our lives don’t seem like a big deal. But when you’re competing, you don’t really have those luxuries or that time to offer people.”
Today, Powell works in commercial real estate with NAI Benchmark and devotes her free time to athletics and improving our local community. “I keep myself busy,” she laughs.
Powell says she is particularly excited about the Miracle League of Stanislaus County, a nonprofit aimed at establishing inclusive baseball leagues for children with disabilities.
“Sports have been such a blessing in my life, and there’s something intrinsically rewarding about the thought that other kids who aren’t normally reached with the sports system are going to have a venue and place where they can play,” said Powell. “And even better: It’s in our county!”
Powell sits on the board for the Miracle League of Stanislaus County, which recently broke ground on its first facility on Tully Road in Modesto. After more than twenty years in high level competition, it’s no surprise that even in retirement Powell remains intimately connected to athletics.
“It will always be a part of my life,” she says. “But exactly what form it will take in the future, I don’t know.”
Lately, she’s been sharing her expertise by coaching local high school athletes.
“I really like the freedom to be able to coach young kids,” Powell said. “To have a positive influence and pass on this great wealth of knowledge and experience that I’ve accumulated.”
For the past two years, she’s also hosted a ‘throws only’ clinic for high school discus and shot put competitors, which draws kids from as far away as Utah and Southern California for a day of instruction from the Olympian. Last year, about 50 high school athletes came to learn technique from the record-setter.
But as for what’s to come, what records remain to be broken, Powell remains open. “I’m told that kids change your life, so I’m trying to keep a very open mind about what my future will hold being a mom,” Powell said. “I think from what I can tell, that’s going to be the most important thing in my life.
“For now I’m enjoying this sort of vacation,” she said. “I’m just very grateful to be on this next phase of life.”
For More Information about Miracle League of Stanislaus County, visit miracleleaguemodesto.com