ALLENDALE, Mich. (WOOD) — Four years ago, East Kentwood alum Tia Brooks was a fresh face in the international track and field scene.
At 22, the shot putter had just graduated from the University of Oklahoma. The Olympic games in London were her first international meet.
“In London, I was a baby,” she said. “I was wide-eyed and bushy-tailed.”
She quickly realized she still had a lot to learn.
“I have to train, this is my job, just realizing that in order for me to get my end goal, these are all the things I have to do,” she said. “So just growing and maturing as a person, as a woman. I’m 25 now, I’m not the 20-year-old kid not knowing what to do.”
After London, she switched coaches and moved to California. There, she learned to fine-tune her technique and started spending more time in the weight room.
“I’m not a weight room person. I’ve never been,” she said. “I’m learning. I’ve finally got to the place where I know how to find that intrinsic motivation. I think believing in myself has helped me push past being fatigued or not wanting to do it. Because when you have to do something, it makes you want to do it less.”
The perseverance is paying off.
“I’ve gained a lot of strength in the weight room and really pushed myself the past two years with my new coach and really getting my weight room number up,” she said.
She recently moved back to West Michigan, throwing a 12-pound shot as she trains at Grand Valley State University.
The numbers tell the story of her progress. Her best throw in London was 17.72 meters. In April, she set a new personal best at the Drake Relays. She did again in May at a meet in Doha, Qatar, hurling the shot 19.48 meters — or 69 feet 9 inches. It was another personal best and another first-place finish. Had she thrown that distance in London, she would have taken fifth place.
She’s now ranked third in the U.S. and hopes to qualify for this summer’s Olympic games in Rio.
“I think this year is the most I’ve ever dreamed of (winning an Olympic medal),” Brooks said. “I think before I just didn’t think that I could do it. I didn’t feel like I fit, didn’t feel like I belonged because I wasn’t a student of the sport, and this year I’ve really sat down and learned so much about throwing and gained a better understanding. Now I know what it takes to get to that next level and I appreciate it even more and that goal seems a lot more attainable than it did.”
The Olympic track and field trials are being held in Eugene, Oregon. Women’s shot put trials will be Thursday.
The Rio Olympics start Aug. 5.