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Amy Watt set to compete for USA in Rio Paralympics

Written by Prachi Kale

Gunn alumna Amy Watt will be participating in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio. Watt will compete in the long jump, 100- and 400-meter events from Sept. 8 to Sept. 14. “It’s an amazing accomplishment and I am very happy for her and proud of her,” coach PattiSue Plumer said.

Watt began her sports career by playing soccer; she initially started track in seventh grade as she thought it would help with soccer and be a good way to connect with friends, but soon realized her passion for the sport. “After a point, after I started doing a few events, I realized that it was something that I really enjoyed doing and so I just continued doing track for school from there on out,” Watt said. “In high school, the track team was definitely a lot more serious than in middle school.”

According to Watt, one of her favorite aspects about track is the camaraderie. “When I joined the high school team in ninth grade, I just really enjoyed running as a team,” she said. “Track is technically an individual sport, but you do so much training with the team and you spend so much time with the people there; it’s just really fun.”

Watt became interested in the Paralympics after first learning about it in 2014. She took part in the Paralympic track and field trials earlier this year. “[We] had Paralympic trials at the same time as the Olympic trials, but they were in Charlotte, North Carolina, not Oregon, where the Olympic trials were,” she said. “You go to the meet after meeting the qualifying standards to compete, and then you run the event that you would like to be considered for the Paralympics. Based on your performance there, they select a team to go.”

It wasn’t smooth sailing all the way, however—there were some complications during the selection process for the Paralympic trials. According to the standard selection procedure, athletes must be eighteen when they participate in the trials, while Watt entered at seventeen. “They can only choose two athletes that are not based off that procedure, and they chose two athletes that are ranked top three in the world,” she said. “For a while, I was first alternate. That was the most nerve-wracking part because I couldn’t go, but I had to train, and I had to train knowing that I might never make it to Rio.”

Watt’s training and perseverance paid off. “The director of the track and field called me a month or two after Nationals,” she said. “I had continued training because I knew I was first alternate, and an athlete had gotten injured, which opened up a spot for me to go.”

Overall, Watt believes she is ready for the upcoming Paralympics. “I’m really excited. I’ve already gotten my competition gear, and there’s so many really exciting things in there, in itself,” she said.

Plumer agrees, and believes that Watt’s mindset was a large factor in Watt’s success. “I think the biggest thing for her was realizing that she had the talent, fitness and work ethic to make the team,” she said. “[Amy is] a stealth bomber. She is so quiet and looks so unimposing, but then the gun goes off and she takes no prisoners.”

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