Hurdler Camacho-Quinn cherishes Olympic gold for Puerto Rico

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EUGENE, Ore. — This is what winning an Olympic gold medal for Puerto Rico looked like for Jasmine Camacho-Quinn: Billboards around San Juan featuring only her first name. A festive parade of flags just for her. Meeting with some of the greatest dignitaries of the country.

Now with all of that comes the pressure – the pressure to replicate that 100-meter hurdles gold medal at the world championships and beyond.

Although she was the best hurdler all of last season, she considered herself an underdog in Tokyo, where she won her country’s first Olympic gold medal in athletics. Nowadays, this kind of role does not apply. That medal has placed a lot of extra weight on her shoulders, which she is learning to handle as she enters the first round of hurdles at the world championships on Saturday in Eugene, Oregon.

“The pressure on you can stress you out a bit,” said Camacho-Quinn, a South Carolina native who chose to represent Puerto Rico in honor of her mother’s legacy. “You try to be perfect in everything. You are trying to have the same year, or something similar to the previous year.

“I’m actually handling it a lot better now, so that’s a good thing. I’m not super nervous before the world championships.

On December 31, 2020, at 9:15 p.m., Camacho-Quinn pulled out his phone and in the notes folder wrote some New Year’s resolutions:

— Win an Olympic medal.

To say she was initially mad after crossing the line that day in Tokyo. Mad that she cleared the ninth hurdle. Angry that she didn’t set a world record.

“And then I just had to remind myself that I had just won an Olympic gold medal,” Camacho-Quinn said with a laugh. “I got away with it.”

It was quite a contrast to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016, where she cleared the eighth hurdle in her semi-final, stumbled on the ninth and crashed in the 10th. She crossed the finish line, fell to her knees on the track and buried her head in her hands. The tears flowed.

Other than that, one promise – it wouldn’t happen again. She studied this breed and what was wrong. His trail leg was a little behind. She cleaned up her form. She trained even harder.

In Tokyo, she dominated the race and celebrated for a country her mother is from. Camacho-Quinn grew up in South Carolina, but always had Puerto Rican influences around the house thanks to mom — music, food, celebrations.

And while some may frown at portraying the red, white and blue of Puerto Rico while growing up in the United States – hardly unheard of and entirely reasonable given the deep stable of American talent in the hurdles – she knows how much that medal meant to a nation of 3 million people.

She has achieved celebrity status in the Caribbean island.

“The amount of love I received was amazing,” the 25-year-old said. “I just feel like I just brought joy to everyone.”

She was treated like royalty when she returned to Puerto Rico shortly after the Olympics. There were billboards with just “Jasmine” in white letters on a red background. There was a parade passing through the streets and proud Puerto Rican supporters waving flags.

She also met Roberto Clemente’s brother, Justino, who requested an audience with her. His home is a museum dedicated to his late brother, Pittsburgh Pirates Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto, who died at age 38 on December 31, 1972. Justino added something else to his memorabilia collection: a poster of Camacho Quinn.

Additionally, she was at a symposium with baseball player Carlos Delgado.

“It’s unfathomable the impact she has had on the Puerto Rican community in the United States and of course in Puerto Rico,” said her agent, Paul Doyle.

To think, she didn’t even start training for hurdles until eighth grade. She thought her career was on the balance beam as a gymnast, not in a lane on the track.

Really, Camacho-Quinn considers herself a sprinter who happens to be competing in hurdles – much like her father, James, who was a hurdler at Charleston Southern University (it was Baptist College Charleston before a change of course). name in 1990). His mother, Maria, was also a sprinter and long jumper in college.

Camacho-Quinn went to school at the University of Kentucky, where she was a three-time NCAA champion. The school also produced one of Camacho-Quinn’s top rivals, world record holder and Olympic silver medalist, Keni Harrison of the United States.

Camacho-Quinn’s big brother happens to be Robert Quinn, the Pro Bowl passing thrower with the Chicago Bears. When she won in Tokyo, the team posted congratulations to her sister on Instagram as he left the field. He also made a small jump – as if crossing an obstacle.

She’s definitely on a roll these days, in hurdles and her new sport, bowling. It already displays scores in the 100s.

“I don’t know how to bend the ball yet, but I’m very interested in learning how to do it,” Camacho-Quinn said. “Because bowling is fun.”

But bowling is not on the Olympic program.

“I’m good with the track,” she cracked.

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