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JC Lambert dropped off his wife and student, hammer thrower Prix ​​DeAnnaon September 28 at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha and sent it with a message.

Go get them. It only takes 76 meters to win the medal.

Price completed her pre-competition routine as she always does. She grabbed the sides of Lambert’s head and smashed skulls.

“We don’t give good luck kisses,” Price said. “We head butt for good luck.

“We don’t want to be mushy. We want to stay in a competitive state of mind. ”

Hours later, Price was in tears and on his knees in the throwing circle, seconds after the end of the world championships final.

Price didn’t just become the first American hammer thrower to finish in the top five at the Olympic or World Games. She won gold.

Price recently relived that night in a watch with the NBC Sports track and field commentator Leigh Diffey – from the head to Sharpie’s reminders on the inside of her left arm to the weight of her shoulders once it was all over, knowing that five months earlier she was considering retiring.

“Why it meant so much was that I didn’t even know if I was going to be able to throw,” she said.

In high school, Price was a .500+ hitter in softball, the record holder in the home-run program, and could have swing a bat rather than a hammer in college.

She played four sports at Buchanan High in Troy, Mo., including track and field. Initially a 800m runner (her mother had the school record), Price, 16, received a hammer for the first time, although only the shot put and the discus were contested at this level.

She wrapped it around her head. The hilt hit her just above her eyes.

Price stuck with that. She shifted her focus to throwing after softball was taken off the Olympic program, taking a partial scholarship in southern Illinois at two-and-a-half.

She won two NCAA hammer titles, got a full scholarship, and competed in the Rio Olympics, placing eighth. His hometown raised money to send his parents to Rio, reportedly including a 12-year-old boy who brings in thousands by putting a pig up for sale.

Price placed second in the world in 2018. But the following spring she suddenly lost about 40 feet on her throws in training. Top launchers clear 250 feet. Such a drastic drop would take Price from the fight for the medals to a failure to qualify for a major final, if she were on the American team.

She was not in physical pain – at first – and struggled for answers. She wondered if she was pregnant. After a month, she started to experience pain in her lower back and hip. Price, who had his left kidney removed at the age of 5, saw four chiropractors to no avail.

She tried massages, dry needling, acupuncture. Nothing. She was stuck in a funk in Carbondale.

Cory Martin, a friend, a shot put finalist at the 2013 World Championships and a throws coach in Indiana, recommended another specialist: Brian Murer, an elite 1990’s hammer thrower turned chiropractor. Price drove three hours to Murer’s base in Bloomington.

“He put me back together,” including wire and duct tape, Price said last fall.

One day after the treatment, Price threw 75 yards, just seven feet from his personal best. She took Murer with her to the USATF Outdoor Championships in July, where she broke her own American record. Price threw the 8.8-pound hammer from 78.24 yards, nearly 257 feet. It was the best throw in the world for the year from almost five feet.

Price went to Doha as the favorite for the gold medal, cemented by the absence of Poland Anita Włodarczyk, the Olympic champion and world record holder after left knee surgery.

Price says she has the attention span of a squirrel. So, before big competitions, she scribbles in Sharpie, as legibly as possible, giving signals. At the bottom, she writes three words in capital letters: “WHO, WHY, GOAL.”

“It changes every day, but I believe for that day I was doing it for my husband, I was doing it for women, to have the empowerment of women, that you can be strong and beautiful, and the goal was finally to bring home a medal for my country, ”Price said.

Price finished second on the start list and won the competition with his first throw, 76 meters. The distance her trainer and husband mentioned at the depot. She finished with the first two throws and three of the top four of the 12-woman field.

“I didn’t even think I was going to compete this year,” Price told NBC Sports’ Lewis Johnson after his victory lap.

Price regrets that night. That she did not challenge those on the sidelines who discouraged her from crossing a barrier to embrace Lambert, a former pitcher. That leaves an unanswered question: would they have celebrated with a whim?

“He likes it better than showing affection,” Price joked.

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