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Amber Campbell

Mind Games

Two-time USA Olympian focuses on Rio 2016

It didn’t matter if it was tic-tac-toe, cards or basketball in the driveway. Amber Campbell ’04 was never given any preferential treatment when competing with her three older brothers. In fact, the sibling competition at home in Tucumcari, N.M., was so intense that their parents were often forced to double as referees.  

“They let me be rough and tumble and that helped me to be a more confident and assertive person and an aggressive competitor,” Campbell says of her brothers, Brian, Donnie and Mike. “I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love them to pieces, and we’re all still very, very close. We had a lot of fun growing up.”  

When Campbell joined CCU’s women’s track and field team as a freshman, her forte was the shot put and discus. Soon thereafter, her coaches introduced her to the javelin and to the hammer and weight throws. A quick study, she finished her collegiate career as the most decorated student-athlete in school history. Her many accolades include being a five-time All-American, two-time Big South Female Athlete of the Year, six-time Big South Track and Field Most Outstanding Athlete and a 16-time Big South Champion in four different events.

Since she graduated from CCU in 2004, Campbell’s success in the hammer throw has propelled her into the international spotlight. The five-time World Outdoor Championships competitor and two-time USA Olympian (2008, Beijing; 2012, London) says her psychology degree is put to use each time she steps into the sport’s 7-foot-wide circle to throw an 8.82-pound metal ball attached to a steel wire. Her personal-best throw of 241.6 feet was set in 2014 at the National Track League invitational in Edmonton, Canada. 

“Having a degree in psychology has definitely made me a more cerebral athlete,” Campbell said. “I think about the mind-body connection more. Whenever I start to feel anxious, I channel that energy to enhance my performance. It also allows me to give myself more positive affirmations. And having a coach [David Vandergriff, Ph.D.] who is a psychologist has also helped tremendously. We are able to talk about different theories. It has given us common ground to build our athlete-coach relationship.”

The hammer throw demands a tremendous amount of strength and coordination. But as an experienced international competitor, Campbell knows all too well that finding success inside the throwing circle also takes a great deal of mental aptitude. 

“In my head, I run through all the technique points I’ve worked on to try and put together that perfect throw,” she said. “It’s a delicate balancing game, making sure I am focused but also having fun and not taking myself too seriously.”

Campbell’s drive to keep competing at the highest level is fueled by her faith. It keeps her grounded and not wrapped up in her impressive list of past accomplishments.  

“At the end of the day, if I don’t have Christ, if I am not centered, if I am not able to show the love that He wants us to, it’s all for naught,” Campbell said. “It really helps me keep things in perspective. It’s not all about the here and now, but building for the hereafter.”

Campbell believes she has yet to reach the pinnacle of her sport. She works out five days a week in hopes of representing the U.S.  at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

“I still love it,” says Campbell, who is in her seventh year as a volunteer assistant coach for CCU’s student throwers. “There is still a burning desire to get up and get better every day. That is what keeps me motivated. I believe you should do whatever makes you happy. If it puts a smile on your face, go for it!”

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