With the close of the Rio Olympics, the summer games will be out of sight and out of mind for most until the Olympic flame reignites in Japan in 2020. There are some though, whose competitive spirit still burns bright. Melissa Ausman, a national-caliber discus thrower and senior at Concordia University in Oregon, is one such athlete with her sights set on the Tokyo Olympics.
It’s a long way to Tokyo from the dairy farm in Nyssa, Oregon, where Melissa grew up – 5,135 miles to be exact. And that dairy farm is where it all began, starting with her relentless work ethic and mental fortitude. Just ask her father, Frank.
“Melissa and all the kids basically started out just like I did as a kid out here; you start with taking care of the baby calves, haying and graining, and you work your way up the ladder,” he said. “Out here, you figure out real quick that it doesn’t matter what day it is or how cold or hot it is or whatever, the work has to be done.”
Melissa agreed, “There are no days off when you’re on the dairy, or trying to reach your goals.”
Ausman began throwing for sport in seventh grade, when she discovered her drive to become an Olympic athlete. Her throwing career was instigated by her competitive side, urging her to throw better than her older brother. She continued to improve over the years that followed, winning state in high school, setting records at Oregon State University, and now training for that next big step at Concordia University.
Currently, she can throw a discus 53.91 meters (176.87 feet), which is beyond the width of an NFL football field. This distance has Ausman just 40 feet away from qualifying for the Olympics. Within two years, she will achieve this mark if she continues to add distance at her current pace.
Ausman has immersed herself completely into her training. Even on her weekly rest day where she stays home from the gym, she continually trains her mind by learning how to improve. That means keeping current on Olympic medalists and working aspects of their training into her routines. She has also learned the importance of balance.
“I’m a sister, daughter, student, athlete — and each one represents a spoke on a wheel,” said Ausman. “If I spend too much on one spoke, then I have a lumpy, lopsided wheel.” After coming to this realization during her sophomore year, Ausman found her balance and beat her personal discus record by 19 feet.
Ausman also depends on the nutritional benefits of dairy in her training regimen. She shamelessly sports an overstuffed bag full of whey protein powder containers to ensure access to nutrition after workouts. Before bed, Melissa’s favorite snack is cottage cheese with pears and cinnamon. She also enjoys greek yogurt as a replacement for mayonnaise; one of many gems she has gleaned from her avid Pinterest searching. To Ausman, training in the kitchen and fueling her body properly is another vital spoke in her wheel of life.
What advice does Melissa offer to aspiring athletes? “Whatever effort you are willing to put into your sport, the results will come accordingly,” she said. “No one else is going to give you the drive to be the best.” She also warned against dwelling on setbacks, suggesting that you can’t get stuck in the past if you want to be focused on your future.
Speaking of the future, what do mom and dad think of Melissa’s Olympic aspirations?
“Oh, she’ll get there, I’m sure,” said Frank. “Anytime I have ever doubted her, she has proven me wrong.”
“She gets her mind set on what she wants to do, and that’s what she’s going to do,” said Lyndia. “I’m not going to put off getting a passport.”