Discus thrower once worked 7 jobs to back career
Before heading over for the Olympics, discus thrower Lance Brooks refinished a driveway in the searing sun to earn extra cash.
Maybe not the best way to train, but it pays the bills.
For every athlete out there well supported by sponsors, there are those like Brooks, who once held seven different jobs just to make ends meet.
His busy schedule didn't leave much time for training.
Only recently did he scrap all but two of his jobs to concentrate on the discus - on coach's orders. Actually, he met his coach, Steve DeAutremont, while working at a bar.
It's been an interesting journey to the London Games for Brooks, who played basketball at Millikin University in Illinois before turning to the discus.
''Maybe after I get done with the Olympics, I can go and find a real job,'' said the 28-year-old Brooks, who has a degree in environmental science along with a minor in business management and art. ''I want to get on with a company where I can make a career out of it.''
When Brooks relocated to Denver five years ago, he worked as a bouncer, bartender and a barbacker (taking out the trash, restocking the cooler). He also worked Colorado Rockies baseball games, coached at a local high school, punched in at an oil-change service and did construction.
If he was exhausted after a long day, he wouldn't train.
Or sometimes he would just throw with the high school kids, which was problematic because he kept tossing the discus over the retaining fence and into the parking lot.
''I was almost hitting cars,'' said Brooks, who at 6-foot-6 and 252 pounds is built like a tight end, but never played football.
Early in his career, Brooks was primarily getting by on athleticism. He threw the discus in high school and again in college - once basketball season ended - but never really dedicated himself to the event.
One day, while Brooks was working behind the bar, in walked DeAutremont, a former thrower himself. They struck up a conversation, exchanged information and later got in touch. DeAutremont watched Brooks throw a couple of times and agreed to work with him.
''We worked here and there,'' Brooks explained. ''Maybe once a week, once every other week.''
Brooks steadily improved, earning a spot on the world team last summer with a third-place finish at nationals.
Shortly after his return from South Korea, his coach gave him an ultimatum - concentrate on the discus or DeAutremont was going elsewhere.
''It wasn't necessarily me quitting all my jobs, but I had to find time to work out three days a week and throw four days a week,'' said Brooks, who dumped everything but construction and bartending. ''I was like, 'That's a lot.' I've never done that before. I've been so busy that I haven't been able to.''
He found the time, fine-tuned his form and was all set for the U.S. trials last month.
On a rainy day in Eugene, Ore., he threw the discus 211 feet, 5 inches on his third attempt. He was the leader in the clubhouse and on his way to winning the event.
However, he had yet to hit the Olympic ''A'' standard of 213-3 to qualify for London, making only the ''B'' mark. He didn't realize at the time he needed to hit the ''A'' standard to go.
On his last attempt, he threw it a personal best 213-9 to earn his spot.
''I would've won trials and wouldn't have gone,'' he said. ''But maybe not knowing helped me. That would've been a lot more pressure.''
Another job awaited when he returned home. Nothing too strenuous, just mixing some materials in a bucket, pouring it on a driveway and using a squeegee to apply it.
''It's not super hard work,'' he said.
He's actually become a selling point for his company - want an Olympian working on your next project?
''If we're on the edge of a job, it's easy to get a conversation going,'' Brooks said. ''We met with a general contractor and my boss is like, 'Hey, we need to figure out a timeline because he's going to the Olympics.' The general contractor is like, 'Oh, that's cool. My neighbor is going.' My boss was like, 'No, he's participating in the Olympics.'
''My ultimate goal when I get back from London is to take time off and find a career. I have a degree. There's no reason why I shouldn't have a good job. Throwing has been great for me. But when it comes down to it, I want to find something I can retire on.''