Mormon Olympian Jillian Camarena
Sometimes Jillian Camarena, a champion in the shot put event, thought she’d never make it to the Olympics. She actually placed third in the 2004 trials, which would normally be qualify her. But she didn’t meet the “Olympic A Standard.” This is a qualifying score set by the Olympic committees for your sport. Without it, a third place finish in the trials won’t get you a spot on the team. She considered giving up, but decided to stick it out.
Then the 2008 Olympics approached. Things looked positive this time, but in April, Jillian had to have surgery on a herniated disc. She’d dealt with back pain since childhood, but she knew her back could go out at any time, and the pain was getting worse. Her brother, serving in Iraq, encouraged her to have the surgery, which he’d also had. She was back in the weight room just three days after the surgery and throwing a month later.
Jillian was unable to compete again until July, but in that meet, she met the A standard score. Once again, she came in third in the trials, but this time, that was enough to earn her a spot on the team as a shot put athlete.
Camerena moved to Tucson to train. There she was a part of Home Depot’s Olympic program, which offers Olympic athletes full pay and benefits, but only requires them to work twenty hours a week, so they can train.
Unfortunately, while her back was much better, her left knee was aching. But nothing stopped her. She fought through it and earned her spot on the team.
Jillian has a history degree from Stanford University and has taken graduate classes at Brigham Young University, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Her past sports career has a large number of wins. She won her first national title at the 2005 Indoor Championships, which she also won the next two years in a row. At the 2006 AT&T Outdoor Championships, her score made her the third best in the United States.