LONDON - Don't pop quizzes stink?
Sitting in class at Colorado State University not so long ago, Janay DeLoach was totally unprepared for the question. "Someone asked, 'Can I get your autograph?' " DeLoach recalled Thursday. "And I looked at her and said, 'Are you serious?' I thought it was kind of weird."
Well, after winning an Olympic bronze medal in the long jump by one silly, glorious centimeter, DeLoach better practice her penmanship. From Old Town in Fort Collins to her corner grocery in Loveland, the 26-year-old Eielson High School and CSU graduate is going to receive the A-list celebrity treatment.
In a long, hot, difficult summer for Colorado, are you ready for some happy news?
Thanks to DeLoach and Regis Jesuit High School senior-to-be Missy Franklin, Colorado now leads Mexico and Egypt in the medal count at London 2012.
"Fort Collins means the world to me. It's home to me now," said DeLoach, a military nomad who attended high school in Alaska and finally found a place to put down roots in Colorado. "This is not just a passing-through phase of my life. I don't plan on going anywhere else anytime soon.
"Part of the dramatic show throughout the long jump competition was the emotional weather report on the face of Colorado State assistant track coach Tim Cawley. Covered head to toe in more school colors and CSU logos than a homecoming float, Cawley attracted plenty of face time on the gigantic television monitors at Olympic Stadium, packed with 80,000 spectators.
After a clutch leap of 22 feet, 71/4 inches by DeLoach on her fifth of six trips down the runway, she had to wait to see if the mark would hold up during the tense, final round of competition. "I just prayed it was going to be good enough for a bronze," DeLoach admitted.
When the last challenger failed to bump her off the podium, and she had beaten Latvia's Ineta Radevica by the gotta-be-kidding margin of half an inch, DeLoach jumped for joy.
And you better believe this woman has got some serious hops. Although she stands 5-foot-5, DeLoach can posterize any guy i n a pick-up game of hoops. "I can't dunk," DeLoach said. "But I can touch the rim."
While were standing for an ovation, let's also give props to Cawley. This is what coaching is all about. He saw and nurtured potential that the athlete didn't even know existed. So Cawley's tears of joy were hard-earned and well-deserved.
"I did not know I was going to make Tim cry," DeLoach said. "But I was so happy to see him. We did this together. I could not have done this without him."
Get this: When DeLoach showed up at CSU as a freshman in 2003, she wanted to play basketball. Track, however, paid the tuition bills. Olympic dreams? Not really.
But life really is weirder than fiction.
At Colorado State, DeLoach not only discovered her passion in occupational therapy, she met the love of her life in fellow student Patrick Soukup. At the U.S. track trials four years ago, she finished 21st. When many athletes would have given up, she pushed on.
"Until last year, when I won the indoor national championships, I was a nobody," DeLoach said when she landed the third and final spot as a long jumper on the U.S. team earlier this summer. "No one had a clue who Janay DeLoach was."
Oh, they are going to know her now.
While standing in the check-out line to buy milk, DeLoach can count on hugs and fist bumps from strangers. For the rest of her life, she will suppress a smile when the conversation begins ...
"Hey, you look just like that CSU gal who won an Olympic medal."