Joanne Duffley Dow '86 didn't know the sport of racewalking existed until she was introduced to it as part of her training to be an aerobic instructor at a health club in Manchester, N.H. Once she tried it, she found she was naturally good at it, and after a 1994 racewalking event in Niagara, N.Y., she told her husband, Tim Dow '79, that she wanted to compete at the highest level.
By 1998, she was the No. 1-ranked female racewalker in the United States. But prior to each of three subsequent summer Olympics, an injury or illness came between her and her dream.
This year, Dow, at age 44, finally got her wish when she qualified for the Olympics at the racewalk trials in Eugene, Ore., in July and then competed in the Olympic women's 20-kilometer racewalk in Beijing in August.
Racewalking requires competitors to keep one foot on the ground and to maintain a straight leg for the majority of each stride. Dow compares it to what kids do when a lifeguard tells them not to run.
"She didn't allow herself to get defined by not making the Olympics," says her coach, Robert Hoppler, UNH men's and women's assistant cross country and track and field coach. "Her greatest moment as an athlete was how she handled that disappointment with strength, character and class, because she wants to be a great role model for her kids."
Dow started out her Olympic race in last place, but ended up placing 31st out of 43 walkers and setting a U.S. record. She was happy to finish, to run a good race, and to have her family watching. "There's not a chance that I'm winning a medal," Dow told The New York Times in early August. "I really feel like I won my medal in Eugene."Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents