Former Olympian Dreams of ‘The Summer Games’

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ELYRIA, Ohio- In 1980, Jackie Below qualified for the Olympic Trials but never had a chance to compete for a gold medal. 32-years later, Below is trying to get back to the Olympics and fulfill a dream, but not to compete.

Jackie Below was tough to beat. At 22-years-old, she was nationally ranked in both the 100 and 200 meters and qualified for the Olympic Trials in the Moscow Olympics.

“I thought I was in the best shape of my life. I felt good,” Below said. “I was under one of the best coaches in the nation.”

The United States never participated in the 1980 Summer games because the U.S. was protesting the Soviet War in Afghanistan. Below never got a chance to showcase her skills.

“To find out the dream wasn’t going to materialize was heart-breaking and it took a while to get over,” said Below.

Just a few weeks ago, Tianna Madison, an Elyria native herself, became the first Olympian from Lorain County in nearly 90 years to reach the big stage.

“When she qualified, I was ecstatic. All I could think of was ‘Oh my God,’ Elyria has an Olympian,” Below said.

Tianna Madison graduated from Elyria High School in 2003. She was coached by Jackie Below. It is now Below’s hope that she can go to London and watch one of the students she helped mold into an Olympian.

“It would mean so much to me to be there with Tianna,” said Below. “To watch her as an Olympian and to represent the United States. To be part of any of that, would be a dream come true.”

Below and her good friend Kathy Ketchum have stared a fund at Lorain National Bank. It is their hope that Below can finally make it to the Olympics.

“It just seems sorta right now that one of her girls has made the team,” said Ketchum. “It just seems like the right thing for her to be able to go and at least watch Tianna run.”

The trip will cost roughly $7,000.

“People are waiting to see how close do we get, and then they will donate. But because I think that is the mindset we haven’t made very much progress yet,” Ketchum added.

“I couldn’t make it as an athlete but to be able to be a part of it as someone who played a part in her life would mean everything to me,” said Below.

If you would like to help Jackie Below fulfill a dream, donations are being accepted at Lorain National Bank at 105 Chestnut Commons Drive in Elyria.

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