Demps realizes dream with Olympic invite
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Jeff Demps fell into a deep sleep Monday night after he returned home from a weekend in France, where he competed in a Monaco Diamond League track meet.
He sort of remembers checking his smartphone when an email popped in at 3 a.m. He sort of remembers the email telling him he was added to the U.S. Olympic Team. He doesn’t remember much else because he fell back asleep.
Was it just a dream? That’s sort of what Demps wondered, too, until he checked his emails again when he woke up. Finally, it all clicked. There was also an early morning phone call from Gators track coach Mike Holloway, an assistant on the U.S. Olympic Team and already in London, confirming the news.
Demps wasn’t dreaming. He was officially an Olympian. Demps left Wednesday morning for London and a spot in the U.S. team’s 4x100-meter relay pool.
“I’m excited about going over and having an opportunity to go to the Olympics,’’ Demps said on his way to the airport Wednesday morning. “For me to get another opportunity to actually make the team, it feels good. It’s an honor.”
Demps was added to the team due to an injury to sprinter Mike Rodgers, who finished fourth in the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials last month. Demps finished seventh. However, Rodgers has a stress fracture in his left foot and can’t compete in London, opening the door for Demps to join UF’s large contingent at the Olympics.
After not making the team at the Olympic Trials, Demps began to turn his focus to other events in preparation for the start of his professional track career. He still wanted to compete in the Olympics but figured he would have to wait until 2016.
“After the trials, I was real excited about going out there and competing,’’ Demps said. “But at the end of the day I didn’t make the team for an individual event, so that was kind of a setback. I just had to go back and train and hope to hit something on the relays or get into some other events over the summer.”
The best-case scenario came true for Demps in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. He spent Tuesday frantically packing for London and quickly turning his focus toward helping the U.S. win gold.
On July 21 at the Monaco Diamond League meet, the U.S. 4x100-relay team of Trell Kimmons, Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay and Ryan Bailey won in 37.61 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year. The Americans edged the previous best time this year (37.82 seconds) set by the Jamaican team spearheaded by Usain Bolt.
Meanwhile, Demps ran for the U.S.’s No. 2 team in Monaco, teaming with Rodgers, Florida State product Maurice Mitchell and Travis Patton for a time of 37.83 seconds.
The U.S. and Jamaica are favored to win 4x100-meter gold at the Olympics. Demps was hampered by a tender hamstring late in the Gators’ outdoor season in the spring but said he is fully healthy entering the Olympics.
“I think I’m in really good shape,’’ he said. “My body is healthy and I think I’m going to be strong. It’s going to be fun and I think I can compete well on this stage. It was a goal to be running the in the Olympics, so I’m very excited about that.”
Meanwhile, for the first time in several years, August is almost here and Demps is not preparing for the start of a football season.
“It feels weird for me, but at the same time it feels like I don’t have a lot of pressure on me [as a two-sport athlete],’’ he said. “It’s going to be weird to watch the games and me not playing.”
Demps was a four-year letterwinner who finished his Florida career with 2,470 rushing yards, eighth on the school’s all-time rushing list. Demps announced earlier this year that he was not going to enter the NFL Draft and instead focus on track.