From originally missing out on making the US Paralympic team, to meeting President Barack Obama, 2016 has been a wild ride for Team Athletigen’s Lacey Jai Henderson.
“I’m calling it my Eat, Prey, Love, Run, Jump summer.”
“I moved to Phoenix and committed everything to this team. I had no balance in what I was doing. I blew it up, made it huge. I made it everything, and of course trials was the selection process. I totally crumbled under the pressure I created. I jumped well but I knew the way Para and the trials were set up, the likelihood of making the team was unlikely.”
Needless to say, Lacey was not selected for US Paralympic team to compete in Rio. After trials, Lacey decided it was time to focus on the things in life that brought her joy outside of track.
“I had to figure out a better way to balance everything, so I travelled a bunch, went to a family reunion. I was planning on being in Argentina for 4 weeks, and I was there for 4 days.”
On the fourth day of her trip, Lacey got a call from the Head of Performance for Team USA.
“I had a bunch of missed calls and texts asking me to call her right away. I honestly thought I had a lawsuit against me or something. We were 2 weeks away from the Games at this point so I had completely shut out the idea of going. She started to tell me about the Russian scandal and how Team USA was awarded more team slots. Sure enough, I was first on the list.”
Knowing her body and the rest she had taken from training, Lacey was hesitant. However, between vacation and time with family, she had found the balance she had been looking for since trials.
“I had to call my coaches because physically I knew I wasn’t ready. But, mentally I was in a much better, clear space. I knew I earned this - I changed my entire life for this. The next day I flew home from Argentina and was immediately sent for team processing.”
Honouring your commitment is not always going to be easy. Lacey notes it can be easy to get off track, and to think that what you are doing is the right thing because it is how it’s always been done.
“It’s something I’ve struggled with: it’s an olympic year, it’s a paralympic year, this is very serious, but my personality is not serious and I was trying hard to force myself to focus and be serious, but I am always at my best when I am happy and things are light and I am able to do other things I enjoy doing. This is a gift, it should add to your life, not become your life.”
“If I could go back I would tell myself, it’s ok to be busy with other things, it’s ok to enjoy life outside of track and field. It’s like I tell any young athlete: make a commitment to something that brings you joy. It’s a little bit easier to have longevity in that because when there are good days, that’s what really feeds you and makes you hungry for more.”
Lacey admits she has not put a lot of thought into what’s next, but she is planning on going to the World Para Athletics Championships in London, as well as Tokyo 2020.
“I’m also going to try and get my masters in between I’m going to bring in the stuff outside of track that make me happy.”