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When Taryn Suttie unravels and unleashes her first throw at the Olympic Summer Games, Canadians should know twists and turns in Kamloops helped catapult the shot putter to Rio.
The Hanley, Sask., product threw a personal-best 17.88 metres at a meet in Tempe, Ariz., eclipsing the Olympic qualification mark of 17.75 metres.
“It’s been a goal and a dream for a long time and it’s very close to being reality now,” Suttie said. “As soon as it left my hand, I threw my hands in the air. I knew it was a good one. Then there was 10 seconds of waiting. In those few seconds, you freak out waiting to hear.
“It feels so good.”
She doesn’t live or train in Kamloops anymore. She’s not from here. She doesn’t have family in the Tournament Capital. She didn’t compete for the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack. But this city’s paw prints are all over her.
After finishing her tenure at the University of Saskatchewan, Suttie moved to the River City in 2011 to train at the National Throws Centre and Kamloops Track and Field Club (KTFC) with world-renowned coach Anatoliy Bondarchuk, known to most as Dr. B.
Suttie went to school under the Ukrainian throws encyclopedia for three years and boosted her personal-best mark to 16.48 metres from 15.70 metres.
Then she hit a wall.
“With a coach, it’s almost like family,” Suttie told KTW.
“I’m not from here, so I spent every day, twice a day, training with Dr. B. So, just to then decide to go elsewhere, it was a very difficult decision, but it’s something I just had to do to further myself in my throwing career.
“I learned a lot in my time with Dr. B and I’m very grateful for working with him. It just needed to change.”
Suttie switched coaches in August of 2014, acquiring the services of former Canadian Olympian Justin Rodhe, and the switch paid off in a hurry. She threw a personal-best 17.61 metres in April of 2015.
“Justin saved my career for sure,” said Suttie, who was a part-time employee at the Tournament Capital Centre, working about 25 hours a week. “I’m very thankful for his help and his expertise. He’s the reason that I’ve made it this far.”
Rodhe, from Cleveland, moved to Kamloops in 2008 to train with Bondarchuk, became a Canadian citizen and wore the Maple Leaf at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. He retired from shot put in 2014 and accepted a job last year at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, where he is a track-and-field coach.
Suttie packed her bags in October and moved to Columbus to train with Rodhe, effectively severing her connection to Kamloops.
“For sure, Dr. B had something to do with that [Suttie qualifying] and credit needs to be given where credit is due,” said Judy Armstrong, president of the KTFC. “She’s now with Justin Rodhe. He also came up here and learned a lot of what he knows from Dr. B.
“Dr. B’s a pretty humble guy and he would never take credit away from anybody. We wish her well.”
Dylan Armstrong, Judy’s son, won bronze in shot put at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and his success attracted Suttie to Kamloops.
On Saturday, it was Suttie’s sixth and final throw of the competition that landed her in the Olympics, which is fitting as she did procrastinate a touch in reaching the qualification mark.
She had until July to hit the standard and there are fewer meets at which to do so after April.
“As soon as March hit, everything got really real, really fast,” Suttie said. “You have to not let it stress you out. There were times when it was a little bit stressful, like, this has to happen pretty soon.”
When it did finally happen on Saturday, it felt pretty damn good.
She called Rodhe to share the news, then her sister, then her parents, who were sleeping — “I woke them up. I said, ‘Geez, thanks for sounding so excited, dad,” Suttie said with a laugh.
Mom and dad will be wide awake on Aug. 12, when the shot-put competition gets underway in Brazil.
Suttie will be in tough to reach the final, as it took a throw of 18.45 metres to escape the qualifying round in 2012, but she will earn her sliver of Olympic history, a little chunk of which belongs in Kamloops.