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Deanna Price — December, 2019
Deanna Price won the 2019 World Championship Gold Medal in the hammer throw with a whirl of 77.54 meters (254 feet, 5 inches). She was the 2019 USATF Championships Gold Medalist with her American Record and personal best throw of 78.24 meters (256 feet, 8 inches). This was her second straight USATF title and the fourth longest throw in history. Deanna finished in the top ten at the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2015 and 2017 World Championships. She has represented the U.S. on a total of nine National teams. At the NACAC Championships, Deanna won the 2018 Gold Medal and 2015 Silver Medal. She is two-time NCAA Champion in the hammer throw, four-time NCAA All-American and four-time Missouri Valley Conference Champion while representing Southern Illinois. Price attended Troy Buchanan High School in Troy, Missouri where she was an All-State softball player, played basketball and volleyball, and finished second in the discus and fifth in the shot put at the state track meet. She excels in athletics despite having only one kidney. Deeana graduated from Southern Illinois University in 2016 with a double major in Accounting and Management and a minor in Business Law and hopes to be a forensic accountant after her athletic career has ended. She resides in Carbondale, Illinois with her husband and coach, J.C. Lambert. She was so kind to spend over an hour and a half on the phone for this interview in late 2019.
GCR: Some time has gone by now since you won the World Championship in the hammer throw. How does it feel to know that after your name are the words, ‘World Champion,’ and that, no matter what else you do during the remainder of your career, you will always be a World Champion?
DP It’s still kind of unbelievable. We didn’t have time to let it soak in. I’m already back in training to get ready for the 2020 Olympics. It’s weird because someone will say to me, ‘Oh my God, you’re Deanna Price!’ People will walk up to me and say, ‘Look who it is!’ And I’ll look behind me and there’s nobody there. Then they’ll say, ‘No, you.’ And I’ll say, ‘Hi!’ It is unbelievable when we look back at my past up to now. I never could have imagined the success I’ve been able to achieve just since 2011 until today. I remember in college all my friends we’re saying we were all going to make the Olympic team for 2016. I had been voted most likely to make an Olympic team when I was in high school and in college and then I did make the Olympic team. It was always something I had wanted to do, but to become an Olympian and to be World Champion are wishful thinking at first, and then you start taking the steps. When I was getting closer and closer, I realized these goals were suddenly attainable. I still can’t believe it. I know that I am World Champion, but I am in disbelief.
GCR: As you mentioned, you went to the 2016 Rio Olympics and you also made the World Championships team in 2015 and 2017, finishing in the top ten each time. What did you do this year in your training and event preparation to mentally, emotionally and physically improve that little bit that moved you not just onto the podium but to the top rung?
DP The biggest difference this year was Coach Lambert and me. In 2017 I was in very good shape to do well. It is different in competitions as some have qualifying and a final while others don’t. After the 2017 Worlds, we realized and adjusted because all we had to do was to throw that 4k weight over 73 to 75 meters any given day. If I could do that, then I would be able to qualify. Then I could focus my lifting to peak for the final. That was the biggest adjustment we made. Also, my husband and I totally honed in on my being able to compete at my highest possible level. We paid attention to everything I ate. I had specific nutrition pre-workout and post-workout. Was I eating enough and sleeping enough? He honed in on making sure that everything I did was for the better. He told me, ‘I knew you were going to do well. But, by chance, if something didn’t go well and you didn’t make it, something had to be seriously wrong. You were so tuned in and so focused and so ready.’ The difference between now and 2017 is that he is so into everything and it had been fantastic. He’s good with mental preparation and small things.
GCR: You mentioned about your nutrition and, in following you, I know you are a bit leaned out this year. Was this a deliberate plan to get you around the ring more quickly and how much has it helped you?
DP In 2017 I weighed my heaviest and that was 275 pounds. J.C. and I decided that, if I was going to do this, I needed to lean out. It is very hard. I’m hungry all the time. Right now, I’m munching on some pecans. He told me, ‘You’ve got to get leaner and you’ve got to get faster, but you have to keep your strength. That’s going to be key.’ We started leaning out in 2018. I got down to about 235 pounds and this year I got down to about 230 pounds. I’m more muscular and defined. Now we’re trying to get down to 220 pounds. That would be the base where we want to be and then, during the season, we’ll gain back about five pounds. It’s crazy because, when I get under 225 pounds, I start feeling weak and tired like I’ve lost it, but I’m so fast. I’m eating super clean and so we can really hone and keep focus on keeping the strength. I just went and bought over four hundred dollars of groceries with the right protein and vegetables because I’m eating four and five times a day. I must make sure I’m eating enough protein to have the correct muscle building and to feel as optimal as I can so that I am able to perform.
GCR: You touched a bit on the dual relationship position as your coach is also your husband. What are the positives and negatives of this and are the two of you able to somewhat separate the athlete-coach and wife-husband relationships?
DP The hardest was probably the first week that J.C. was officially my coach. I was more needy than some of the other athletes and he was more on the side of ignoring me because he didn’t want to show favoritism. The first week was difficult. Then we sat down, chatted, evaluated and talked. The best thing is that we do a good job of leaving the training at the field. We don’t talk about it when we get home. When we are at the field, I call him ‘Coach Lambert.’ I’m Deanna, but we keep it extremely professional. I just can’t get hurt if he says something I don’t like. Or, if I have an attitude, he can’t get offended by it. We do our best to not bring it home. When we get home, he is my husband and I am his wife. There are times when we do talk about it in the third person. I’ll say something like, ‘Coach Lambert was such a butt today.’ And he may say, ‘I heard he has this athlete who wasn’t listening.’ We do a good job of making it fun and making it more exciting to work with each other.
GCR: I do want to get to the details of your Gold Medal competition, but first the big picture of a topic I’ve discussed previously with Emma Coburn, Jenny Simpson and Michelle Carter. Even though you usually compete against the same athletes, even though you haven’t earned a medal yet at the Olympics, is it different to earn a medal at Worlds versus the Olympics?
DP I don’t really know yet, but I do want to find out. After I missed the finals at the World Championships in 2017 and getting a ninth place, that was extremely hard. I remember crying and telling myself, ‘I never want to feel like that again.’ We do compete against the same women and I have built great relationships. That’s a huge difference as well because I’m not a scared little sheep. ‘I know you! We’re cool! We’re friends!’ I’m supportive and cheer them on, but we go after it. We want to be successful. The best thing is having that support system and those athletes. We’re all trying to do the same thing. We’re all trying to get a medal. We’re all trying to bring respect and honor back to our country. The Olympic Games holds a higher standard because they are only once every four years and the World Championships are every two years. The Olympic Games are the big one because everyone knows about them and not everyone is aware of the World Championships.
GCR: In the field events, some competitors start out with a safe throw or jump and build momentum while others try to come out strong and put up an outstanding mark right from the start when they are fresh to show the competition they are the king or queen and will be tough to catch. Which do you prefer?
DP For me consistency is my biggest thing. On the first throw my goal is to make it to the finals. That is goal number one. When I opened at 76.87 meters at Worlds, I thought, ‘Holy crap – that is a great opener!’ That did put pressure on the field. Then having a round up throw at 77.54 meters – I’m usually consistent. That is one of my goals. I’m not one of those athletes who builds up or who pops it. I make sure that my first three throws get me somewhere and then I do go after it. I want to make sure that I am in the meet. I don’t want to be going full speed on throw number one and foul and then full speed on number two and foul and have that additional pressure. I want to keep the pressure off me, get into the final and then go for it.
GCR: So we can understand and get inside your head, after all the preparation and coaching, when you step into the circle, it gets quiet and it is just you, the hammer and that seven-foot wide ring. What is going through your mind as you get ready to throw, whirl through the circle and release? And do you know when you’ve hit a big throw?
DP Before I get in the ring, I have so much adrenaline and excitement. I always have to write three things on my arm to remind myself exactly what I must do within the throw to throw well. If not, I’ll get too excited and too hyped and blow through my turns. I was able to hone in this past time on ‘relax your left arm’ and then ‘keep your head back and push from the right’ and finally ‘stay down on turn four.’ Those are key points I said to myself. I looked at my arm and said them out loud right before I went. That is the first reminder for my brain of what I need to in the ring. ‘Okay, this is what I need to do.’ The throw all together, from walking into the ring, completing the throw, and walking out of the ring, is about five seconds. Whenever I’m throwing, whenever I’m winding that ball, I feel that pressure. In the United States, our hammer throw cages are not so closed like in international competition. I’m thinking, ‘I have to take this ball, wind it around my head three times, complete four turns in the correct direction and throw it between this itty-bitty opening. And throw it far enough that I’m going to win. That is a lot of pressure and stress. Right when I get in there to start my throw, I breathe in. Exactly when that ball comes past me the first time, I let out that air. On the last wind I take a nice, big, deep breath in and then I throw it. I know its going to be a good throw off the first entry. If I can feel that right foot smack down and I can feel the tension in my hands of that hammer, I know its going to be a good throw.
GCR: We mentioned that you’ve been in the top ten before at the Olympics and World Championships. When you came into the competition, what were your goals as to making the podium and possibly earning the Gold Medal? Did you have an ‘A Goal’ and an ‘A+ Goal?’
I sat down with J.C., we planned and, for the past two months, every single throw on Friday and Saturday has been like it would be on Friday and Saturday competition at the meet. The first three on Friday we aimed to throw over 73 meters and on Saturday the goal was to compete. We did that for about two-and-a-half months on every single Friday and Saturday. We made sure that was the plan. He said, ‘If you can throw over 76 meters, you will medal.’ My opening throw was over 76 meters and I had to hold myself back from crying because I thought, ‘Oh my God! I think I medaled!’ I’m glad that Joanna had a great throw after me because that is why we don’t cry. I had to keep going. It was such a great competition and there were such great individuals who were competing.
GCR: Can you take us through the rounds a bit and give us some insight as to how you were feeling on your throws and when a medal and the Gold Medal started to move from goal to possibility to likely and your range of emotions during the rounds?
DP The first-round throw was very emotional, and I wanted to cry because 76 meters got me a medal. If it was a 76 low, I may not have gotten it but, with it being 76 high, that was a great possibility that I was going to medal. In the first round, Joanna had a big throw right after me and we both popped off two big throws right off the get-go. We sit there and wait fifteen to twenty minutes between each round. We’re waiting and waiting and waiting. My second-round throw had the speed I wanted, but I couldn’t hold correct position. It was a foul. I knew I would have to be as technical as possible and then snap the finish on the next throw. I wanted to keep the pressure on the field. If I was chilling, they were going to come and get me. On my third-round throw, I remember looking at J.C. and he snapped his chest. I remember thinking, ‘I need to get in the ring and do something.’ I missed my first turn but hit two three and four and I hit the finish. I was thinking, ‘Ugh, so it is decent… all right… that’s fine.’ And it came up as 77.54 meters. ‘Oooh – that’s a lot better than I thought it would be!’ Since I was one of the first people in the round, I had to wait fifteen minutes and then another fifteen minutes for the re-order since I was the last thrower from worst to best. I was sitting there and that was good pressure as I was watching, and I was waiting. That’s what we learned for next year. I have to stay warm because my fourth-round throw was only 74 meters. I was cold. I got cold. I thought, ‘Okay, let’s take a little jog. Let’s do something to get warm.’ Then I started feeling panicky. ‘What if someone hits a big throw? Am I going to be able to respond? You let yourself get cold, Deanna. What are we going to do?’ Luckily, nobody got past that throw. If someone did, it might have been a different story. If someone passed me, would I have been able to respond? Would I or would I not? I like to think I would definitely respond. After each round I sat down, and I didn’t think. I stared at that ring, waiting for my turn, waiting for my opportunity to do something. I did not want to have that same experience as I did in 2017. We worked too hard and I was not letting this go. A lot of the other women didn’t look and didn’t watch the other women compete. I sat there and watched because, if someone was going to throw a big throw, I wanted to see it. I wanted to be there. I wanted to live and to feel every single moment of this competition. I wanted to feel the pressure and to feel the anxiety. I wanted to feel the energy. It was the best thing. I wanted to do my job and that’s what it was – to get in there and do my job. On that last round throw, even though I knew at that moment that I was World Champion, I thought, ‘You’re going to get in there and you’re going to have a good throw.’ I responded with another high 75-meter throw.
GCR: That must have been amazing because, we were watching on television and we knew you were the Gold Medalist and you knew you were the Gold Medalist. Were you feeling like you couldn’t wait to get that throw over so you could celebrate?
DP It was a lot of pressure. It was hard having that pressure and excitement as I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God – I’m World Champion!’ J.C. says, ‘It’s not over until your last throw.’ So, I just took the throw. A lot of people asked me why I even took the throw. They were amazed I took the throw and it went well. It was what my husband told me to do! (laughing). That was how we trained.
GCR: What was it like to receive your Gold Medal, be on the podium and hear the National Anthem that you’ve heard hundreds of times before, but this time in recognition of your achievement?
DP I cried like a baby. I think I’ve never cried more than in those three days of my life. I kept crying and crying and crying. It was the overwhelming amount of support I had. I do listen to the National Anthem almost every day because it means so much to me. A lot of people have political differences, but it’s still our country. It is ours. Too many people have given their lives for us to not be proud of it. When I was standing on that podium, it wasn’t for me – it was for ‘we’ and all the sacrifices others did for us to give me this opportunity and chance to compete for the United States. I couldn’t be prouder and more honored to be able to stand on the podium and to wear our colors. We have fantastic hammer throwers from the United States and all of us who competed were in the top ten. That was unheard of. I think there were three of us in the top five. The United States was not known for our hammer throwing, but this year we came out for sure.
GCR: This is making it more difficult to make the U.S. team and before an athlete can compete on the global stage, they must make the team. Though you have made two U.S. World Championship teams and the 2016 Olympic team, how exciting was it to make this team after some problems with your technique severely affected your throwing distance earlier this year?
DP I was having bad back and hip issues and there was about a month where I couldn’t throw. I was struggling. I asked myself, ‘What do I do?’ I wasn’t about to go and throw 62 or 63 meters – that wasn’t happening. My husband and I had me do tests and we tried to figure it out. Luckily, we found this expert in functional movement from Indiana named Brian Murray. His company is called Evolutions and he was a hammer thrower. He knew exactly what I was going through. He invited me to Indiana to he could take care of me. The first time he worked on me I ended up throwing 75.75 meters. He is a fantastic individual and a good guy. He is one hundred percent in, and his family are the sweetest and kindest people. They are so supportive and wanted me to stay at their house so I wouldn’t have to drive home at night. They were the hands down, amazing, most pure hearted individuals I’ve ever met in my life. They are one of my ‘whos’ as to why I do this.
GCR: To many track and field fans and even more with the general public, the hammer throw is an event that is very cool to watch, though they don’t know much about it. How did you transition from the more common throws, the shot put and discus, to focusing on the hammer throw?
DP The first time I picked up the hammer was in 2009. I picked it up, swung it around my head and smacked my head with the handles. I remember thinking, ‘I’m never throwing this thing. Why am I even trying this because in high school we only do the shot put and discus?’ But this guy, whose name was Gary Cooper, from Troy, Missouri, was a volunteer coach at the high school. With much persistence he got me over to his house where he had a hammer throwing pad in his front yard. It was a pad with some crazy wires that were tied to trees everywhere so things wouldn’t be hit. He said, ‘We’re gonna throw!’ It was cool because, if you threw far enough, you could hit the road. I called it the ‘throw for the road.’ Now he has moved the pad back so that it’s about 82 meters or 83 meters to the road. I told him recently, ‘I need to throw there!’ He got me into the hammer. I competed in softball, volleyball, basketball and track. I did these multiple sports in high school, so I never had time to train for the hammer. All together from 2009 until I graduated high school in 2011, I had about three months of training. I ended up throwing the four-kilogram hammer 180 feet. It’s something I picked up well due to doing those multiple sports. I did swinging in softball and had speed from basketball and jumping from volleyball. Those aspects helped build individual muscles to help me push the hammer. It was fun to do and different. Coach Smith came to watch me throw once and said, ‘I’d like you to come to Southern Illinois.’ I had full ride opportunities in softball and track but decided to take a partial scholarship to Southern Illinois because they had such an amazing Accounting program. I double majored in Accounting and Management with a minor in Business Law. When you told me you were a CPA, I knew why I liked you (laughing).
GCR: If someone is an athlete and a CPA, they have as much, or more, structure and discipline than anyone.
DP I haven’t sat for the CPA exam yet, because during my senior year in college in 2016, I had to decide to go into my master’s program or to double major. I decided to go with the double major because with our master’s program you had to take your CPA exam during it. I was trying to make an Olympic team and looked at my husband who said, ‘No…no, no, no.’ He told me, ‘You’re too close. I know you. You stress out. You pull all-nighters. No way.’ With time I would like to go back because I would like to be a forensic accountant. That is one thing I liked in my courses.
GCR: Back to the hammer throw… There are many things you must do to get stronger and faster while improving your technique, but it all comes down to arm extension, speed upon release and your release angle. What is your release speed and the perfect angle when you let go of the implement?
DP My top release speed I have had recorded is 101 kilometers per hour which is about 62 miles per hour. My best release point would be 39 degrees, but I usually average around 37 to 38 degrees. I break my back on the finish instead of pushing it through to the left side. That’s what we will be working on this year. We want to hone in on my technique and getting that clean throw.
GCR: Could you take us through a typical training week or month when you are building as to your focus on strength, speed and technique and then how that changes during your competitive season?
DP I sleep nine to ten hours a night, at least. I have to sleep. I’m one of those people who function on sleep and I can sleep anywhere. I may be stressed and exhausted, but I sleep through it and I’ll be fine. I wake up and go for a walk with my dogs in the morning. When I come back, I eat five egg whites, half an English muffin and two slices of bacon with half an avocado. I drink about 32 ounces of water. Then I get ready for practice around 11 o’clock. I throw a series of different implements from heavy to light and I usually take about forty to fifty throws. I work on being technical. Then I do an abs class. Next, I do a technique circuit, like two hundred turns or drill work. I try to make up for lost time because many European throwers start very young and have that technique built in. In the United States, we start at a later age and are trying to play catch up. During the workout I’ll snack on a handful of pecans or an apple to try to keep that energy throughout. I go home and walk my dogs again and go for a run. I eat lunch at about 2:30 or 3:00 which is usually a chicken breast, baked or smoked, one of the two, with a side salad and red skin potatoes with onions. Then I go back out to the field and am a volunteer Assistant Coach at the university. I help J.C. with the athletes. I usually bring my dogs with me because they are kind of my therapy puppies for the kids. If they’re having a bad day, they go and they rub the dogs. After that, we come back home. It’s late, so we may get food from Panera or Panda. We like teriyaki chicken, but without the sauce, with the super greens. Some days we come home, and I might have something in the crock like chicken and wild rice soup or Indian curry - something of more substance to recover. I eat that and then we do stretches and ab exercises. We get in the hot tub for about fifteen minutes. Usually I’m in bed by 8;00 or 8:30. J.C. stays up late. I do that six days out of the week and the seventh day is a recovery day. Today is a recovery day because of how cold it is outside. J.C. didn’t want me to throw outside as it dropped from 65 degrees to 32 degrees. He said, ‘Your body hasn’t adjusted yet. We’re not going to take that risk.’
GCR: Let’s go through your career and start with your childhood and teenage years. You mentioned playing multiple sports and I remember reading an article a few years ago that said 88 percent of NCAA Division I athletes played multiple sports in high school and the article noted that this helps when an athlete finally does focus on one sport. Of course, this is opposite thinking to many parents who coerce their children to play one sport all year around in hopes that they will become superstars. What do you think about this concept that participating in many sports helps hand-eye coordination and general athleticism with benefits when you do focus on one sport?
DP Hands down it helps. If you are focusing on one sport, you do that your last two years of high school. Don’t do this with kids when they are young and trying to develop muscle to become better athletes. For me, it was also a break when I switched sports. If I didn’t, I would have been absolutely burned out in one sport. I’ve talked to people who are world class athletes and have been in their sport for a long time. There is one swimmer who had a chance to make another Olympic team and he said, ‘I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.’ His parents didn’t understand, but he didn’t want to swim competitively anymore. Parents are forcing kids into one sport and the kids want to have fun. If they are pushed into one sport, many will get burned out. I did softball in the fall, basketball in the winter, track and field in the spring and then volleyball, softball and track in the summer. I made sure that I did multiple sports. It kept me busy. It kept me active. It kept me strong. I may have got some minor injuries in the different sports, but they were never serious, and I learned from them. People must play it safe and make sure their kids are safe. If a parent is going to have a kid do only one sport starting when they are five years old, they will be done with that sport by the age of fifteen. I will put money down on that. It’s like when people are on a job for a long time and they get exhausted. That’s why I’ve done so well in the hammer throw. I didn’t start training for it until 2011. I have a passion for it because it is still new for me and I am still learning. The other day J.C. was looking at me and asked, ‘are you turning on the outside of your foot? And I said, ‘I don’t know. Am I?’ He said, ‘How did we not know this?’ There are small things like that we can pick up and find and learn from. This will continue to pique my interest a couple years down the road. Being young and developing your muscles is good and an athlete may not know what sport they are good at until they try it. Bodies change so much that we can’t just say that a certain youth is going to be a professional soccer player because of a love for soccer. That athlete may grow to be six feet, ten inches tall and I don’t know of a soccer player who is that tall. He may end up good at the high jump or great at basketball. If parents don’t encourage their kids to play different sports, they limit them. I like soccer. I was terrible, but my mom put me in the sport. I loved playing soccer but was not good with my feet and trying to kick the ball. I wanted to touch it with my hands.
GCR: What was the impact of growing up in a small town and of your older brothers of developing you into an athletic girl?
DP My brothers had me riding a bicycle without any training wheels at the age of three. It’s funny because my oldest brother, Marcus, is super athletic. He had a learning disability, so he wasn’t very intellectual. Then Steven was super ridiculously smart, but not as athletic. Mom said, ‘I got you right, because you got some of both. What made you great is you took elements from each brother.’ Marcus is six years older than me and Steven is three years older. I refused to be left behind. Anything they were doing, I wanted to do. They toughened me up like crazy. They would take this big blanket, wrap me up in it and throw me. They knew how to torment me, but it made me tougher and a lot stronger and better. I didn’t earn a medal or an award until eighth grade when we won in softball. My brothers had so many medals and I wanted one. I wanted to earn one. By the end of my high school career, I had over a hundred and eighty medals.
GCR: Let’s talk about a couple of those medals. Your senior year you placed second at State in the discus and fifth in the shot put and were All-State first team in softball. Tell us about how exciting it was to have both individual and team success.
DP I absolutely loved softball. I still love softball. Honestly, if they didn’t take softball out of the Olympics, I might have leaned toward softball. It was such an amazing sport because there is such great team bonding. That is one thing I miss – that unity. Now that I’m older, and I know many elite women hammer throwers from different countries, they are like my team. I know them. I know how they compete. I know their struggles. I know their strife. I know their goals. I’ve seen them develop. They’ve seen me develop. There is a bond. In the hammer throw, I compete with the same women and build relationships with them. When I was in high school, I loved my team, especially the Troy Buchanan team and the Lady Nemesis softball team. It was amazing. But one thing I like about the individual sport is that it is just you. If you make a mistake, it’s on you. If you do well, that’s you. If I don’t do well, there is no one else I can look at except in the mirror. But when I am successful, I’m doing it for the people who back me. When I don’t do well, I let me team down because I wasn’t able to perform the way they needed me to. That’s how I look at hammer throwing. In softball it’s hard because there is a time I remember when we were ahead by two runs, we were at Nationals and the other team had girls on second and third base. There was an easy popup to third base, and it was dropped. But we were still up by one run. On the next play the same thing happened, the ball was dropped, a girl scored, and we were tied up. Then there was a line drive up the middle, another girl scored, and we lost Nationals. This is something we carry with us. There was finger pointing – she missed it. But there were so many things that went into it. There were many personalities and that made it hard to make sure the team was a cohesive unit. If a girl just got into a huge fight with her boyfriend or parents and is expected to play well, it’s not going to happen. Teammates must adapt and, when someone is weak, to be strong and to take a leadership role.
GCR: What were highlights of the recruiting process when you were entertaining playing softball or competing in track and field and your selection of Southern Illinois? How did Coach John Smith influence you along with your now husband, J.C., as an additional recruiter?
DP J.C. was this cute blond guy who ended up sitting down with me for a few hours and we chatted. He is an absolutely amazing person and quite a technician in the throws. What amazed me about Coach John is that he could recall numbers from each of their athletes. He knew what they threw when he recruited them and then what they got to while he coached them. That was impressive because I’m a number’s person myself. For him to have the ability to remember each athlete’s recruiting numbers and the numbers he got them to and how many conference championships they had was amazing. The girls that were there, like Kim Fortney, were super kind and sweet. I thought I wanted to do this and to go here. It felt like home. Southern Illinois University was so beautiful, and it had that ability to have rural and urban characteristics together. I got a bit of everything. Coach Lambert was a senior when I was a freshman and we started dating in 2012 on May 15th. We’ve been together ever since. He was one of those people who kept pushing me and making me better. Coach John had the plan and J.C had the execution to a ‘t.’
GCR: During your freshman year you were second team All-American in the hammer throw and made the U.S. team for the IAAF World Junior Championships in Barcelona, Spain. How cool was it to not just be All-American, but to put that USA jersey on and go overseas to represent the United States?
DP It was crazy. The first time I was able to wear the uniform, I was just sitting there thinking, ‘Seriously, you made it?’ I’m an emotional person and I cry all the time. The first time ever being able to wear my national colors was one of those moments. It was a learning experience because none of my coaches went with me. It was just me by myself. I didn’t throw well and that made me a little sad. There was different food. There were full-body fish on my plate and that weirded me out. Now I’ll eat anything but, looking back then from now I think, ‘if I only knew then what I needed to do.’ I ended up losing twenty pounds over there just because I wouldn’t eat. Now I think, ‘Oh, I was so stupid. I should have eaten.’ It was more an ‘Oh, I made the team’ versus ‘I want to do well.’ I did want to do well but didn’t know how to execute it.
GCR: How important was it to be consistent through your four years at SIU?
DP During my career at SIU, I held the freshman record in the hammer throw at 62.30 meters, became an All-American my sophomore year and was the first female to win any All-American award all four seasons.
GCR: Though you were focused on the hammer throw, your shot put best is fourth all time at SIU and you were 2015 Indoor MVC champ weight throw and NCAA All American with a third place along with 2015 Outdoor MVC champ in the hammer and discus and NCAA champ in the hammer throw. How much fun was it to score points for your team in multiple events and then to win NCAAs for the first time?
DP My coach had us throw in every single event. There was no specialization in the hammer throw. That was not an option. Now, it’s different as most people are specialized. What’s nice about doing multiple events is that we get a break from each event. If I’m stressed and the hammer is not working, I’d go over and throw the shot put or discus. I had a discus throw of 53 meters and a shot put of 16.3 meters and a hammer throw of 73.09 meters in college. I made sure that we were going to get points. We were so close to winning conference several times. It was hard because we had many second-place runner up team finishes. But I wouldn’t change a thing. I absolutely love track and field. Being a two-time NCAA champion and I think nine U.S. teams is hard to believe.
GCR: 2015 was your breakout year with a second place at the USA Championships, fourth place at the Pan Am Games in Toronto and a Silver medal at the NACAC Championships in Costa Rica before you went to your first World Championships. If you look back, did you feel you were now a serious contender on the world stage?
DP Exactly. I went from throwing 65 meters to 72.30 meters and that was insane. Holy moly! Then I realized this was somewhere that I could excel. Hammer throwers don’t make money. We do it because we love the event and we want to represent our country. One of the other top athletes said, ‘I thought we’d be making a little more money.’ I started laughing. There is more money for women in the shot put. The hammer throw isn’t contested at any Diamond League meets. We only compete in hammer challenges where the prize money is a fraction compared to other meets. We don’t compete for the money. We do it because we love it and want to make Olympic teams. Records are always broken, but having the ability to say, ‘I’m an Olympian’ and ‘I’m a World Champion’ are things I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. I enjoy bringing honor back to my country.
GCR: You are a Nike-sponsored athlete and are breaking the mold of what the public perceives are the best U.S. athletes, so could there be an opportunity for you to be more prominently featured in advertisements leading up to the 2020 Olympics?
DP My agent is fantastic. Her name is Karen Long, and she is wonderful. I signed with Nike this past year and I am very excited about that. How we make it financially is through our sponsorships and it gives us the opportunity to travel and to see the world. I’ve been to China and seen the Great Wall and the palace. I’ve been to Tokyo and got to ride a bullet train. There are so many different opportunities we get a chance to do and that is fantastic.
GCR: Back to your athletic exploits – after that big breakout year in 2015, you repeated at NCAAs in the hammer and, as a college junior, you had a shot at making the Olympic team. What was it like at the 2016 U.S. Championships when you came in third place and made the Olympic team?
DP I remember my last throw and Gwen and I both threw 73.09 meters. My boyfriend at the time, J.C., who was my coach, was surprised that I was holding myself together well. The next thing you know, I started bawling like a baby. Being able to make the Olympic team with all the support I had over the years and the overall love from my community and friends were great. I’m a Lincoln County girl and a Southern Illinois girl.
GCR: When you speak about your community, I’ve read that they totally came through to help your parents go to the Rio Olympics. Could you tell us about that?
DP My parents were quoted that travel costs would be a total of about twenty thousand dollars to go to the Rio Olympics. My mom and dad both lost their jobs in 2008 and still were hurting for money. Mom finally found a great job. My dad is a carpenter and was getting back to work. But they didn’t have twenty thousand dollars. They were again able to make payments toward their house. They told me, ‘There is no way we can go to Rio with you Deanna. We just can’t afford it.’ But there was no way I was going to make this Olympic team and go without my mom and dad. I set up a GoFundMe account and the community ended up raising over eighteen dollars in eleven days which I still can’t believe. Wow! Holy Moly! It made the biggest difference. People were coming into my mom and dad’s house and leaving money on the table. It was crazy. This one guy left a one-hundred-dollar bill on the table and my mom had made a cake to take to her work, but she cut him a piece of the cake and said, ‘It’s worth it.’ I’m going to start a GoFundMe account again because I want my parents there for the Tokyo Olympics and it’s going to cost even more to go to Tokyo.
GCR: At the 2016 Olympics you came in eighth place – could you relate some highlights of your Olympic experience including the competition, enjoying watching other events and touring in Brazil?
DP I went to the statue of Jesus on the mountain. The people of Brazil were so kind and so sweet. I didn’t have anything but a great experience. Rio was great. I loved it. They were good people. The Olympic Village food was great but, when we went out, the food wasn’t the best. I did end up having a severe allergic reaction two days before competition at the Olympic Games. I don’t know what it was as I had never been allergic to anything in my life, but my lips swelled up like a bad Lindsey Lohan injection. It was crazy. They ended up giving me three Benadryl pills and one Prednisone. I was refusing at first because I needed a Therapeutic Use Exception form. They said they would because, if I didn’t take the pills, I would end up in the Hospital Emergency Room in Rio. So, one pill, two pill, three pills, four pills – I took them. Amber Campbell and I were the first American women to make an Olympic hammer throw final and go as far as we did. She was sixth and I was eighth and that kind of started outstanding U.S. women’s hammer throwing. It was awesome to be a part of that history with a great competitor like Amber, who I always wanted to be like and compete like and who is such a genuine person.
GCR: Did you have any unexpected or unusual experiences in Brazil?
DP I did see a dead body and that was crazy. We were going to the Naval Base and he was laying on the beach on a towel and was in such a weird funny position that I took a photo. About five minutes later I realized he was dead and not moving. Then a bird landed on him and I was certain he was dead. The next thing you know, an ambulance came by, zipped him up and put him in a bag. Ewwww… I just saw that.
GCR: The next year at the 2017 World Championships in London, as you mentioned briefly earlier, you came in ninth place and missed making the finals by one place. What led to you being ready to do well and then not performing up to your expectations?
DP It was disappointing as we were ready to go. I think it was because I was so heavy. I’m glad it happened, and it was a learning experience that I told myself I never wanted to feel again. After that we met with the top hammer throws coach, Stuart Togher, and he kept grabbing my stomach and telling me I was too ‘expletive deleted’ fat. It was funny because, after that, every time I ate something, I would hear his voice – ‘You’re too blanking fat.’ It was interesting. He just grabbed my stomach and, with his accent said, ‘You’re too blanking fat! How do you get around the ring? Can you even see your toes?’ My husband was there, and I said to J.C., ‘I hope you’re getting good technical advice, because I’m never coming back here again.’ He did get me to lose weight. He’s a good guy. He’s just a little rough around the edges.
GCR: In 2018 at the NACAC Championships in Toronto you earned the Gold medal with a 74.6-meter throw. Were you were starting to round into the form that carried over into 2019?
DP Yes - I looked at Gwen Berry and Meg Ewan and knew I did need to lose some weight. I didn’t need to be that big and, amongst my competitors, being more compact was the new norm.
GCR: You also won your first U.S. title in 2018 over fellow Saluki and friend, Gwen Berry. Was that a friendly or spirited competition?
DP We know each other very well and are supportive of each other. We’ll say, ‘Let’s go. Let’s do this.’ We are both going after the same thing. I trained with her several years. I’ve known her for a very long time and so has my husband. She is a good person. We both are thinking about breaking 80 meters and want to see who gets there first.
GCR: How important in your training program is overall body conditioning, core exercising and flexibility to keep well-rounded fitness and reduce your susceptibility to injuries?
DP We must be all-around athletes, especially at this level. The name of the game is staying healthy as long as we can. It’s being able to hold the correct position. We do a lot of stretching. I see a chiropractor at least once a week. I get a massage at least once a week. We must be able to keep ourselves together as injuries are a part of the game. The key is keeping away from getting any big injuries.
GCR: In training, and I’ve been through this, as an athlete we have certain workouts we like to do and others we don’t like to do as much. How do you mix this up so that you don’t focus on the training sessions you enjoy while minimizing the ones you don’t like and does J.C. have to help you in those areas?
DP I must keep myself very accountable for my actions. A lot of times, even the routines that I don’t like, I must go through them because they are going to build a specific muscle for my event. I absolutely hate doing land mines and rotational exercises because they put a strain on my lower back. But I need them to be able to have the strength to push the ball. During my harder exercises I try to have my coach or training partner keep an eye on me to make sure I’m holding the correct position and to make sure that I’m not putting any extra strain on my lower back.
GCR: Let’s discuss your upcoming goals as you get ready for the 2020 competitive season. When you went into the 2016 Rio Olympics, you were happy to make the team. Now, as you come into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as the World Champion with tough competition that has you in their eye sights, the 2021 World Championships in Eugene Oregon and that lofty eighty-meter distance out there, what are you doing to get ready to go for the Gold Medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, defend your title in Eugene and hit eighty meters? Is that the ‘Holy Trinity’ of goals?
DP Yes, that is the Holy Trinity of goals right there. But, as I say, we never know how we are going to feel that day and, in that moment, we might have a day that is a bit off. People will say to me, ‘You’re going to make the Olympic team.’ There are a lot of great throwers, so I say to myself, ‘Don’t count the days, but make every day count.’ It’s being able to capitalize. It comes down to who is going to do it that moment, that day, and is going to throw the distance. There are big throwers who bow out all the time and the number one goal is to make sure I’m not one of them.
GCR: You mentioned coming back to your community, now as a Gold Medalist. How do you view your ever-increasing role as an ambassador for encouraging children to exercise and try something new, as an example of being lean and strong versus very thin, and as a role model for young women to strive toward their potential?
DP I love going to schools and talking to kids. But my number one priority is training. I do talk to groups and individuals and do photo shoots, but they either must come to my practice or work around my schedule. I talk to a lot of kids because I can impact their lives. If I impact one kid to be better or to help them to accept themselves for who they are, that is what I want to do. The world is hard enough, so people need to be able to accept themselves to make it a bit easier. To push yourself to be better, you must be able to look yourself in the mirror each day and tell yourself that you’re beautiful and worth it. A woman may not fit in size zero jeans, but I fit in size 18 jeans and I love those jeans and I love who I am. What I do is because I love my job and love my sport and do it for my country. Being strong isn’t something that is gross or disgusting – it is beautiful. I see small and petite females benching 400 pounds and that’s crazy. Wow! Taking responsibility to break down barriers and to let people know we can be both strong and beautiful is what I say. You don’t have to choose between ‘either or.’ You can have the best of both worlds of boing the athlete and being the female and being a bread winner. You have the chance to be anything you want to be without setting limitations. Everyone is their own chief and their own star. We all need to make our own goals and not look at someone else’s goals.
GCR: You discussed a person’s central core. What is the importance of your parents’ influence on you and your Catholic upbringing in forming your values and characteristics and putting you where you are now in your mid-twenties?
DP My mom and dad, especially my mother, ingrained in me that ‘It’s not just you. It’s not ‘you against the world and you doing it by yourself. It’s we.’ That’s what I took away from my mother. She told me to look at the coaches who take time with me and to look at my teachers. If we try to do something by ourselves, then we are alone and that’s bad. I talked to an athlete who is a Gold Medalist and he told me that when he won his Gold Medal the first time it was just him and, when he won, he never felt lonelier. To me that sank in. Wow! That’s what my mom talked about. I made sure that I never felt alone and did things for me. I do them for the people that I love and to bring honor back to my country and respect back to my community and my family. Our center core needs to be our faith, our family and our friends. We must be able to see through the bad times. We are going to have them and need to be able to jump over them and make those obstacles disappear. We are going to be stuck and feel pressure and feel pain, but we need to look at a brighter side. I made sure that I earned a college degree so that, after my athletics are over, I have something to look forward to. Many people get stuck in thinking that what they are doing is what they must do. With athletics, there is only a certain time that we have to make the best of that time and our ability to be able to compete the way we can compete. When it’s done, it’s done.
GCR: When you speak to youth and speak to groups, what do you tell them about the major lessons you have learned during your life – whether it’s athletically, academically, the discipline of athletics, balancing the many components of life – do you stress the importance of that balance of athletics, academics, social life, finances and moving forward as a human being and any adversity you have faced that is the test you must go through to be stronger to be your best?
DP You must be a well-balanced person. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Bad things happen to good people, bad things happen to bead people, good things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. It’s how you play your cards and how you look at it. Be a glass if half full person. That will make life a lot easier. I was the victim of a sexual assault when I was a lot younger. I learned so much from that experience and the faith I had when I was going through that. I told myself I was going to make myself strong so this would never happen to me again. That is when I started lifting weights and made myself a woman of strength and beauty. I was a beautiful girl and I’m a beautiful woman. I want to be able to be who I am and to love who I am. Being strong opened that barrier for me so that I could have the best of both worlds.
  Inside Stuff
Hobbies/Interests I love to think. I love to paint. I have two dogs that I take to their classes and am going to train them for agility and other things. I love being a coach and helping the kids. I go to and speak at schools. These are lots of things I love to do
Nicknames One is ‘Sunny Dee’ because I always wear sunglasses on my head. The other is ‘Deanimal.’ And some people call me just ‘Dee’
Favorite movies I like ‘The Addams Family’ and was watching it about five minutes before we started talking. It’s funny. It’s different.’ It’s weird. It’s unique. I think ‘Edward Scissorhands’ is very cool. Classics are ‘A Walk to Remember.’ Movies can be spooky or weird, but always have to have a happy ending. I also love any Disney movie and superhero films
Favorite TV shows I’m a big fan of ‘Forensic Files.’ I love that show. As a kid I loved ‘The Fairly Odd Parents.’ It was about a kid who wished and got whatever he wants but learns lessons from the wishes he makes. Now, I watch ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Once Upon a Time.’ I mostly watch cartoons. I don’t watch television or movies that are high drama because they stress me out too much
TV reality show dream I would like to try ‘The Voice’ or ‘Survivor.’ I think I could do a good job. I’m not doing ‘Naked and Afraid.’ I don’t think so. That isn’t happening
Favorite music I love Katy Perry, Rhianna and Beyonce. I try to listen to Billie English, which is good, but not my thing. I love listening to the National Anthem before I compete. That’s my number one thing
Favorite books Crime scene and murder mystery books. As a kid, ‘Where the Red Fern Grows’ and ‘Rose Garden’
First cars My very first car was a Pontiac Sunfire from around the year 2007 or 2008. I thought it was so cool, but my brother ended up wrecking it. So, I got my mom’s car which was a Pontiac Grand Prix
Current car A 2015 Chevy Equinox
First Jobs I mowed grass and I washed cars for my grandpa’s trucking company. My first real job was working at a bank
Favorite Halloween costume One of my favorites was a drunken baby. I had a suit and then there was an air-filled baby on my back. The baby was teething with alcohol. Another one was when I was a Power Ranger. I like super-heroes so once I was Wonder Woman. Today, since it is Halloween, I have my face split into a half skull and half of my regular makeup with a whit contact lens inserted. I love makeup and am making up a kid as ‘Rocky Balboa’
Family My mom and dad are Ann and Dan Price. I have two older brothers, Marcus and Steven. We are all born in June and three years apart. They are hilarious guys to be around. I have a great family support system. I love my husband’s parents, Cheryl and Steve Lambert and their kids. The oldest is B.D., then Amanda and then my husband J.C.
Pets I have had a lot of pets in my life between turtles, snakes, hamsters, guinea pigs and fish. I always wanted a horse but haven’t had one. They cost a lot of money. Right now, I have two dogs. J.C. got me ‘Maverick,’ in 2014 when I blew my knee out. He is a mini Australian Shepherd and is a red merle. He is super sweet and adorable. He has two split eyes that are half blue and half brown. He is very handsome. Now we have a mini Burmese Mountain dog that we got about three weeks ago, and she is the cutest thing in the whole world. She is about eight pounds and is tri-colored – black, brown and white. They bred a King Charles Cavalier with a Burmese Mountain dog to get a mini. She is so cute and little, but will grow to about forty pounds
Favorite breakfast Without paying attention to my athletic nutrition protocol, it’s biscuits and gravy, candied bacon, hash brown potatoes and homestyle fries. That’s my favorite breakfast – hands down. My dad’s biscuits and gravy are fantastic. Delicious!
Favorite meal I love my mom’s fried chicken and catfish, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, chicken and dumplings – that family style kind of meal that warms you up
Favorite beverages I love cabernet sauvignon wine and pinot noir. I can only have one glass of wine. When I was born my urethra tube was pinched so I had trouble with my kidney. I can’t drink much alcohol. For each glass of red wine, I have to drink three glasses of water. I drink juices, but not those with high sugar that I try to stay away from
First athletic memory Playing ball in my front yard with my mom and my two brothers. We had so much fun. I’m only twenty-six years old now, but sometimes I wish I could go back and just take that all in again. I’m twenty-six, but I have the mental attitude of a five-year-old
Athletic heroes My number one role model is my mom. She was a fantastic athlete and she was my role model. As I got older, it was Jenny Finch, the softball player. Also, the gymnast who twisted her ankle and still competed, Kerri Strug. If I could participate in another Olympic sport, it would be gymnastics. It is amazing. It is so intricate and there are so many rules. If I was blessed with being only five feet, one inches tall and weighing one hundred pounds, I think I would do well (laughing). If you are over five feet five inches tall, it is hard to be a gymnast. With throwing, you can be any size and shape. You can have more speed, or you can have more power. There are so many ways to combine that power and speed
Greatest athletic moments One that really set me in motion was our Districts and Regionals in softball. I had so much fun. Another was my first time making a USA team to go to Barcelona in 2012. That was huge. In 2015 that success was a big memory for me because I realized I could do something in this sport. It gave a platform to have a chance to maybe go to the Olympics. And it gave me an opportunity to impact others’ lives. One thing I learned when I was growing up is what my mom taught me that each medal, each championship, each success is just a fraction of our life. It’s the people and the friends that we’ve built along that way that make life more memorable. Winning the World Championships was great. I still can’t believe that I’m the American Record Holder. It was a moment in my life where I got to hang out with so many amazing people. I got to meet Mike Powell and go to a photo shoot with Christian Coleman. These are all moments, but they are all fleeting. I don’t try to look back – I try to look forward. We are only as good as our last throw. People say, ‘You’re World Champion!’ But, right now would I even make the final?
Disappointing athletic moment At London in 2018 it was a bad experience. I ended up getting very sick and having bronchitis. Then my grandpa died an hour before competition. That was probably the hardest competition that I ever had to go through. And we ended up losing the house that we wanted to move into. When it rains, it pours. It was not my day that day. I came off my 78.12-meter throw and hit the cage and the only fair throw I got in was 64 meters. I flopped!
Childhood dreams I wanted to be my mom. If you ever saw her, we look extremely alike, but I just wanted to be like her. She has always been such a huge influence in my life. She’s always been there. She is so kind and has taught me so many things about life and how to do things
Funny memories I was on a TV show for singing that was ‘Junior Stars.’ I sang ‘What I Like About You,’ and the song starts with them singing, ‘Hey!’ In the video, I’m turned with my back to the camera and then I turn around and go, ‘Hey!’ J.C. will walk through the house, turn his back to me, turn around and go, ‘Hey! What I like about you – you know how to dance!’ And I’ll say, ‘I hate you so much.’ That is probably the worst
Worst date ever There was a guy I was talking to back in the day, though we weren’t dating. I was a sophomore in high school. He ended up stealing his dad’s truck and drove to my house at about four o’clock in the morning. My dad went out and asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘I just want to see her.’ My dad had him come into my brother’s room, because my brother was off at college. Dad was sitting in the kitchen watching both rooms to make sure that the kid wasn’t doing anything. Since he stole his dad’s truck, my dad called the cops. They came to our house and arrested him. That was probably the craziest thing I ever experienced in my entire life
Watchful dad My dad never liked any of my boyfriends except for J.C. One time my dad told me it was time to go to bed and he made my boyfriend stand out on the front porch in the cold until his dad came and picked him up. My dad said, ‘Where are your parents?’ ‘I think they’re on the way.’ ‘Well, you can just sit outside and wait for them.’ I was shocked and said, ‘Dad!’ The response was, ‘Don’t you dad me!’ Dad and I are extremely close. He worked a lot of nights, but he would do his best to come to all my games. He would come in his white carpenter pants. He would take me out for gizzards and a Sun Drop and then we would throw together. Or he would watch me at the batting cage. My parents have been married for twenty-eight years and they are an amazing pair and great team. I couldn’t be more grateful for that
Favorite places to travel My favorite place in the U.S. is Eugene, Oregon because of my sport. It’s amazing with Prefontaine’s Rock and the legacy of track and field there is fantastic. I love Eugene. Another great place is Indiana. I’m a Midwest girl through and through, so any Midwest place because the people are sweet, and kind and homebodies and I like that. Internationally, I love Jamaica. That was fun. We had a lot of fun there. I was stared at a bunch because I’m about as white as a white person can get. I love the energy in Jamaica. I also love Tokyo, Japan
Goal places to travel I would like to visit somewhere in India. I love food and that points me in the direction I want to go. I love spicy food like Thai and Indian food. If there is great food, that is where you’ll find me