Tokyo 2020 Olympian Samantha Dirks isn’t afraid of a challenge.
The 30-year-old picked up athletics at age 18 – pushing herself to learn the sport as fast as possible, an endeavour that took her all the way to the global stage.
“Being uncomfortable is my favourite thing,” Dirks told LA2028.com. “It was cool learning track and field as quickly as I could at age 18. Kids usually start when they’re younger, but I did a crash course and fell in love with it.”
She advanced quickly, too, competing for Belize at the 2017 World Championships in the 400m and four years later at the Tokyo 2020 Games, where she was also flagbearer for the Central American country.
In Japan, Dirks finished seventh in her heat, missing out on the semifinals but achieving her fastest time of the season, a 54.16.
“It was huge, it surprised me, it was a battle between feeling really excited and also scared, but I realized it was my time to walk into this moment,” Dirks said of her Olympic experience. “So, I embraced it and celebrated, and my family was so proud of me. Competing for Belize and being able to represent our country unified my family. It was a great honor and such a big deal for us. My family still talks about, ‘My gosh, you’re an Olympian!’ That never goes away and it’s true that it’s an honour you carry for life.”
A Los Angeles, California native, Dirks dreams of going to the Olympic Games started with the red, white and blue, but came into focus with Belize as she realised representing the island nation provided a unique opportunity.
“One of the reasons I wanted to compete for Belize was to attract more attention to the country and promote funneling of assistance to the athletes and the federation,” she explained. “I definitely did what I could by giving my teammates gear and spikes.”
Today, her experience as an athlete and an Olympian are being put to good use as an athlete fellow working with LA28 in Partnership Sales.
“Sam brings a voice and perspective that no one else on our team can provide – the point of view of an athlete,” said LA28 Partnerships Manager and Dirks’ mentor, Gage Axford. “Given that athletes sit at the center of the entire Movement, it’s incredibly valuable to have someone who has lived the athlete experience and can authentically speak to it as a contributing member of our team.”
Dirks, who has a B.S. in Nutrition Dietetics and Food Science and works as a fitness trainer, is relishing the chance to see another side of the Games and continue to contribute to the Olympic Movement.
“When I joined the Fellowship Program I wanted to experience and begin to understand the other side of sport,” Dirks said. “I always thought that the only path for me would be working with or coaching athletes, but learning about the business side of sport and being able to share the athlete voice is fundamental and equally as important.”
Source : Olympics