Tech’s Chaunté Lowe has high-jump medal podium in sight

Nat Page has worked with Chaunté Lowe since she arrived on Georgia Tech’s campus in 2002. Tech’s longtime jumps and hurdles coach coached America’s preeminent high jumper ever since, guiding her to four Olympics. Prior to leaving Atlanta for Rio, Page said he believed that her moment had come.

“We haven’t put it all together at the Games,” Page said. “She has a lot more in her tank. You look at her and she’s one of the most physically gifted women you’ve seen, but things have to be right. I think it’s time.”

Lowe, whose competition begins with preliminaries Thursday, is far from the rising junior who represented the U.S. in the 2004 Olympics, when she became Tech’s first-ever female Olympian. She is married with three children. In 2015, she scaled back on her training to care for her daughter Aurora, who was demonstrating behavioral issues that doctors believed were related to autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Previously based in metro Atlanta, the Lowes now live in Orlando. Lowe and Page keep up through videos of workouts and phone calls.

“This time at the Olympics, I won’t be a sophomore in college, or a mother, nursing a one-year-old,” Lowe told news media at the Olympics. “So this time I put myself in the best advantage, and I think that’s really going to work well for me this time.”

Lowe (nee Chaunté Howard) may not have a one-year-old, but she still has plenty to keep her occupied. On top of training and the demands of family, she is enrolled in an online master’s degree program (accounting and financial management) and is a day trader. Days begin between 4:30 and 5 a.m., when she rises to get in training before her children wake up.

“I had a lot of sacrifices when I started early, and now as a mother I sacrifice mostly my sleep,” she said.

It should come as no surprise that, when a bus ride to her training last week dragged, she began working out on the bus. She documented the session on her Twitter account, her tank top tugged up to reveal her shredded abs.

She has already experienced triumph in Rio. Earlier in her stay, Aurora went to her first day of mainstream kindergarten after having placed out of a special-needs program.

Training for the Olympics while raising three children is “really difficult, but we make sure to have a lot of fun,” Lowe said.

The Thursday preliminaries and the Saturday final will be the end product of her sacrifice and determination.

She enters the meet with the best jump of the year (2.01 meters, or 6’7 ½”), achieved at the U.S. Trials in July. Two main rivals, Russians Anna Chicherova (2012 gold medalist) and Maria Kuchina (2015 world champion) will not compete due to the ban on Russian track and field athletes after findings of widespread doping in the country’s athletics program. A chief competitor is American Vashti Cunningham, the world indoor champion earlier this year and the daughter of NFL great Randall Cunningham.

Lowe’s career needs no vindication, but she is locked in on a spot on the medal podium. She failed to reach the final in 2004 and finished sixth in 2008 and 2012.

“I think if she really lets her experience take over at the Games, she’ll medal,” Page said. “I think that she has a chance at the gold equal or better than anybody there.”