Representing northwest Iowa well

Monday, June 25, 2012

You can't help but be proud when you hear soldier and athlete Michael Mai talk about the value of his experiences as a youth to his competitive success today.

Mai, a Le Mars native, finished in the top 10 in the hammer throw Thursday at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Track and Field Championships in Beaverton, Ore.

His 225 feet, 8 inch hammer throw was short of the distance the 1996 Gehlen Catholic graduate needed to compete at the 2012 Summer Games in London.

The throw itself is impressive to anyone who thinks about moving a 16-pound ball attached to a wire that far by building up speed in four turns within a circle.

The hammer throw event was highlighted in a day of competition that took place at the Nike Worldwide Headquarters on the Ronaldo Field.

About 3,000 people watched Mai throw Thursday.

They were also watching a competitor who consistently credits his past as a Le Mars area farm boy for his some of his success in athletic competition.

In interviews with reporters, Mai speaks of farm work, such as baling hay and working with livestock, as helping to make him physically strong.

He also traces his pursuit of hammer throwing to earlier achievement in track and field in high school.

Mai was a state champion in his senior year at Gehlen.

He also refers to his parents, Jim and Donna Mai, of Le Mars, and praises the values they instilled in him.

The U.S. Army Major plans to leave the Army's World Class Athlete Program where he prepared for the Olympic trials. He will return to work in his military field of financial management and expects to be in Afghanistan.

The deployment may begin soon after his wife Deidre gives birth to their first child in December.

Some time may pass before we know if he'll return to hammer throwing.

But we do know he'll use the values, determination and competitive success he gained growing up in the Le Mars area wherever he goes.