Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, July 22, 2012 | 2 a.m.
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Amanda Bingson is ready for her dress rehearsal.
The lights and stage will be similar to the real thing, but that’s not until the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. For Bingson, a recent UNLV grad who came out of nowhere to qualify for this summer’s Olympics in the hammer throw, London is just a warm-up.
“We’re a little ahead of schedule,” Bingson said. “I just had a really good day.”
At the U.S. Olympic Trials on June 25, Bingson qualified in second after throwing a personal-best 235 feet, 6 inches. Her second- and third-best throws that day still would have been enough to finish second, one spot ahead of American record-holder Jessica Cosby.
So, yeah, this is strange territory. Asked when she knew Bingson would have a shot to make this year’s Olympics, UNLV coach Yvonne Scott-Wade said, “Basically on the day she threw at the trials.”
Scott-Wade didn’t want to say she was surprised or shocked, but she was probably both. Of course, Scott-Wade has personal experience with surprising Olympic experiences.
Coming out of the University of Colorado in 1996, she qualified for the Atlanta Olympics for Japan in the 100-meter hurdles. The results weren’t great, and Scott-Wade said a big part of that was that she put everyone on a pedestal. The lesson?
“Everyone you compete against is human,” Scott-Wade said.
Bingson is using that advice in her own way. Since no one expected her to be in London anyway, what does it matter how she finishes?
That’s not entirely true, of course, but such a carefree mentality helped Bingson succeed at the trials, and she is hoping she can use it to make the finals (top 12 out of 40) in London. If she can, then Bingson will be even more ahead of schedule. By the time the Rio games roll around, she’ll have the credentials — including maybe a couple of world titles — to rest on.
“I’m going into it thinking of this as more of an experience thing,” Bingson said.
That’s easy to say in July in Las Vegas, which the 2008 Silverado grad knows as home. It will be much more difficult to keep her emotions in control in the midst of the competition.
That’s where Bingson’s family is playing its part. Her parents and sister will support her in London, and until then, they’re keeping her focused on training, too. When Bingson qualified for the Olympics, her father, Pat, had some advice.
“He said, ‘Have your moment, get excited; that’s fine. But remember, you still have another meet,’” Bingson said.
Any dreamy ideas Bingson has about London are kept in check by the repetitiveness and familiarity of her training in Las Vegas. The only way to prepare for the Olympics is by preparing the same way you would for any other meet, without any illusions of grandeur.
“You don’t change the way you ride a bike just because you got a brand-new bike,” Scott-Wade said.
So far, the approach has worked. On July 7, Bingson competed for the United States at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Under-23 Championships in Guanajuato, Mexico. She won with a throw of 234-3, a little more than a foot short of her personal best.
Bingson guessed she would have to break the American record (243-5) to reach the medal stand in London and may need a new personal best just to reach her goal of the finals. Those lofty requirements are part of the reason she believes she can keep her expectations tempered.
Walking away with a medal would require the best throw of her life (by several feet) and missteps from a few of the world’s best. And she’s comfortable with that knowledge.
There’s more to the Olympics than competing, and Bingson has got both Scott-Wade and assistant coach Khadevis Robinson to lean on for expertise.
“It’s unlike any other experience in the world,” Scott-Wade said of the games.
Robinson, who will compete in the men’s 800 meters in London, said skipping the opening ceremonies in 2004 was one of the biggest mistakes of his life. He was too focused on his race to enjoy some of the spectacle.
Robinson said he wouldn’t let Bingson make the same mistake — not that she planned to miss the opening ceremonies, anyway. When discussing her plans to sit next to first lady Michelle Obama during the ceremonies, Bingson’s speech sped up as she imagined the sounds of the stadium while wearing the red, white and blue.
“I know I’m going to cry,” Bingson said.
This time it will be in the stands. Next time she wants that experience on the medal stand.