When thinking about Amy Acuff’s career the lyrics from a familiar L.L. Cool J songs come to mind, “Don’t call it a comeback I been here for years.”
Acuff’s Olympic career started in 1996 and has continued with Acuff heading to her fifth Olympics in the high jump this year. She joins an elite group of athletes that include Gail Devers, Carl Lewis, Willye White, Willie Davenport and Jearl Miles-Clark. Acuff claimed her spot at the trials with a jump of 6 feet, 4.75 inches behind Chaunte Lowe and Brigetta Barrett. “I think with each successive team I made I experienced less anxiety and pressure at Olympic trials. I think part of it is confidence and part of it is learning to put the sport in perspective” she explains.
Acuff lives, trains and works as an acupuncturist in Austin, Texas. Acuff began training again a year after her daughter was born for general fitness but was surprised by her fitness level. “I started working out for general fitness about a year after I had my daughter and I realized that may be some of what I thought I lost didn’t really go away. That led me to want to keep working out to see what I had available in terms of competing” she said.
Acuff is known for being self-coached which lets her control her workload since coming back this season “ I’ve had a very minimalist approach to training this season. As you get older you really need time to recover and you can’t put in the same types of volumes you do when you’re twenty. I use a lot of video analysis with my jumping” she goes on to explain, “My training week is very flexible as I often delay workouts depending on my ability to recover. I generally jump twice per week. I do a lot of sprinting short distances.”
Watching video allows Acuff to take a step back and look objectively at performances “I watch video of all my practices and also watch video of other jumpers. Occasionally I like to analyze great performances from other events to try to collect universal truths about mechanics” she explains.
Acuff’s return to the high jump began earlier this season at the Texas relays where she was able to garner the A-standard. “Although there were a lot of people in the stands and it was a very big meet, it felt very laid-back for me. It’s nice to not have to travel, as I live in Austin. It was also nice to be back home eating lunch twenty minutes after I competed” she states. Acuff only competed at handful of meets before the trials including the Drake Relays.
Though it appears that her return to high jump has been easy there have been some challenges when juggling work, family life and training, “Sometimes training or work does get sacrificed to a degree. I try to tell myself there’s always tomorrow because I know that getting uptight about it only makes things worse” Acuff explains. Being a mother has had some positive changes too, “I think it really helped a lot in my core strength and possibly in the ability of my brain to juggle multiple things at once. For example I feel like I can keep track of a greater number of body positions when I’m jumping” she states.
Going into the London Olympics, Acuff knows how to handle the distractions.“There are a lot of distractions of the Olympics and is important to stick to your routine. I won’t be adding in any new training schemes or exercises in the next few weeks” she explains. Her experience and taking care of her body will factor into her success at these Olympics. “I’ve been really good about taking care of my body. The use of alternative therapies such as acupuncture, Pilates, and Rolfing has been instrumental. I don’t think I would be where I am without all of these modalities” she explains her longevity.
Acuff has one more goal, a gold medal. At the Athens Olympics she finished fourth. “I want to win the gold medal. You can’t always control what someone else is going to do in their performance, but I feel that I have the potential to put together some great technical jumps that will be fueled by the adrenaline of the Olympic Stadium” she states.
You can follow Amy Acuff at the Olympics starting August 9 in the women’s high jump qualifying round.