Article Date: Monday, July 7, 2008
Foster's Daily Democrat

DOVER — Joanne (Duffley) Dow's eyes filled with tears. But it was OK. She pumped her arms and drove her feet forward, one after the other, as fast as she could walk. They weren't tears of anger, or tears of fear, or even tears of sorrow.

The former University of New Hampshire athlete let the tears keep coming. These tears were tears of relief, tears of happiness, tears of joy. And anyway, she didn't need her eyes to see where she was going. She knew every step she took was one step closer to Beijing. Joanne Dow was going to the Olympics.

On Sunday morning, the final day of the 2008 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., on Dow's last chance to compete in an Olympic Games, she did exactly what she needed to do. Ten years after winning her first U.S. national title, Dow won her 10th, walking her way to Beijing.

Using one decisive move, just six kilometers into her 20-kilometer race Sunday morning to distance herself from the rest of the field Dow, at 44, made her first Olympic team. She finished the course in 1 hour, 35 minutes and 11 seconds. Second place Theresa Vaill finished more than a minute behind her in 1:36.35.

"Hop (her coach, Rob Hoppler) and I had talked a lot before the race," said Dow, who currently lives in Manchester. "The plan was to just walk with Theresa (Vaill) until half way and then make a move. But, we got to five kilometers and I sensed that her cadence was slowing down, and I still felt really good, so I figured I'd put the hammer down for a lap to see how she would respond."

Hoppler said once Dow made her move he couldn't believe how fast she walked.

"I got a little nervous at one point that she was going to run out of steam," Hoppler said.

Dow's halfway split was 46:23, well under the Olympic "A" standard of 1:33:30, and she maintained that quick pace through the next five kilometers as well. But she didn't fade.

"Hop and another friend of mine were giving me the time differential between me and Theresa once I made my move and at 15k I knew I had a gap of over a minute on her," Dow said. "So I stopped pushing quite so hard. I wanted to enjoy it."

And enjoy it she did. Almost too much, though.

"There was a really large crowd at the start/finish line and they were really loud and supportive the whole race, but the last few laps it started to get to me and I started to cry," Dow said, "but then Hop yelled to me, 'Don't start hyperventilating on me now!' and I was able to keep the emotions in check until after I finished."

Dow's daughter Hannah, a member Manchester Central High School's recent state championship 4x800-meter relay team, and a savvy track fan, said after the race, "I was so nervous the last few kilometers of the race, I thought maybe she had gone too fast, too soon, but she did it. She made it."

She made it indeed.

"It's been a long road," Joanne said, half laughing, half sobbing after her race. She paused just for a second, maybe to reflect on three past Olympic Trials' miscues. "A looooong road."
View: Mobile | Desktop