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Former JBLM Soldier working toward his Olympic-team dream

Published: 12:58PM June 21st, 2012
Former JBLM Soldier working toward his Olympic-team dream

Phil Sussman/Northwest Guardian

Hammer thrower Mike Mai swings a hammer at Fort Lewis, July 1. Mai finished third at the U.S. National Championships and will soon compete at the World Track and Field Championships in Berlin, Germany.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Several Soldiers in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program recently posted strong performances in preparation for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials, scheduled for today through July 1, in Eugene, Ore.

The results provide a preview of what they could achieve in Eugene, where they will vie for spots on Team USA, which is headed to the London Olympic Games.

Major Michael Mai, former commander of 9th Financial Management Company at JBLM, won the hammer throw with a hurl of 69.55 meters at the Jim Bush Southern California Championships in Los Angeles, June 2. A week later, he launched second-place throws of 74.83 and 75.43 meters at the Ashland Open Track & Field Meet in Ashland, Ohio, on June 7 and 9 respectively.

Mai, 34, of Mountain View, Calif., won the hammer at the West Point Open at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., with a throw of 74.01 meters on May 19. With a lifetime best of 76.28 meters, he still pursues the Olympic A standard of 78.50 meters. He has hit the 77-meter mark in practice.

If athletes attain the Olympic Trials A standard for their event, they automatically are qualified to compete at the Olympic Trials. The only sure-fire way to secure a berth in the London Olympic Games is to attain the higher Olympic Games A standard and finish among the top three in Eugene.

The hammer throw will be the only event contested at the Nike World Headquarters near Portland. The rest are set for historic Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus.

Mai finished second at the 2011 Outdoor USA Track and Field Championships with a throw of 74.69 meters. He hopes to punch a ticket to London in Portland.

“I kind of left with a sour taste in my mouth in 2008,” Mai, who finished fifth with a throw of 71.75 meters in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials in Eugene, said. “I got injured a little bit before the trials and I just didn’t put it together like I wanted to. You don’t ever want to leave the sport feeling like that, like there’s more I can do.”

Still, Mai said, he feels he has been more successful in the last three years than he has been in the rest of his career. He has competed in nine U.S. outdoor and seven indoor national championships.

“I made the last two world championship teams, went to the Pan Am Games this year and got the silver medal,” Mai said. “It hasn’t all been everything I’ve wanted, and even though I haven’t set a new (personal record) with the hammer, it’s always been my goal to go to the Olympics. You don’t want to leave knowing you have the ability to do it, and you didn’t at least make a run.”

WCAP distance runner Spc. Joseph Chirlee crushed the Olympic A standard with a fourth-place finish in the 10,000 meters at the Tartletos Loopgala in Wageningen, Netherlands, May 30, with a time of 27 minutes, 43.96 seconds. Ali Hassan Mahboob of Bahrain won the race in 27:21.40.

Chirlee, 32, a naturalized citizen from Marakwet, Kenya, lowered his personal best by 33 seconds and became one of nine U.S. runners to attain the Olympic A standard of 27:45.00. The Olympic Trials 10,000-meter men’s final is scheduled for June 22, in Eugene. The top three finishers with the A standard will compete for Team USA in London.

Specialist Augustus Maiyo met the Olympic A standard with a second-place finish and time of 8:29.37 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at the Music City Distance Carnival in Nashville, Tenn., on June 2. Specialist Kyle Heath finished 10th in the same race with a time of 8:50.15.

Maiyo, 28, of Fort Carson, Colo., was twice named to the NCAA All-America Team in cross-country at the University of Alabama. He finished third in the 2011 Army Ten-Miler at the Pentagon.

The Olympic Trials men’s qualification heat of the 3,000-meter steeplechase is set for June 25. The final is scheduled for June 28.

Staff Sgt. John Nunn, who already punched his ticket to England by winning the crown for the men’s 50 km race walk, will attempt to double in London with a berth in the 20 km race walk, scheduled for June 30, in Eugene.

Several other Soldiers hope to compete at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials.

Specialist Robert Cheseret, who finished second in the 2011 Army Ten-Miler, is running the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. He finished 14th in the 5,000 meters with a time of 13:37.02 at the Oxy High Performance Meet in Los Angeles on May 18.

Also at that meet, Spc. Jackson Langat finished fifth in section four of the 800 meters in 1:48.70. Capt. John Mickowski finished 12th in the third section of the 1,500 meters in 3:49.07.

Mickowski won the 1,500 with a time of 3:40.60 at the Portland Track Festival at Lewis and Clark College on June 9. Capt. Kelly Calway finished 16th in the women’s 10,000 meters with a time of 33:55.20.