Feb. 7, 2013
By Taylor Dutch '13
When most people imagine a Pac-12 student-athlete who competes at the highest levels of sport, a vision of a fiercely driven individual often comes to mind. Showing humility in the face of a cutthroat conference is not a quality that is always relevant. But for Cal thrower Chioma Amaechi, it is apparent that a balance between confidence and humility is possible.
Amaechi has a lot to be confident about based on her success as a key member of the Golden Bear track & field team. A top recruit from San Francisco, Amaechi began her career at Cal in the fall of 2010 and has since established herself as a force to be reckoned with in the ring. During her freshman season, Amaechi earned Cal all-time top-10 performer spots in both the shot put and the hammer throw, and was also the runner-up in the weight throw at the MPSF Indoor Championships with an effort of 59-4.25.
Not only does Amaechi boast great performances in the throws, but she is also one of the best female weightlifters in the country. She has competed on three international teams, including the Junior World Championships and the Youth Pan Am Games. After redshirting last year to focus on making the U.S. Olympic team in weightlifting, Amaechi has returned to the ring with a bang. At the UW Invitational Jan. 26, she not only beat her personal best in the weight throw by over seven feet, but she also smashed the school record by nearly four feet with a throw of 67-2.00.
"I know I'm stronger than anyone I compete against," said Amaechi when describing how her weightlifting background has helped her succeed in the weight throw thus far.
Although she is proud of her performance at the UW Invitational, Amaechi insists that her improvements and confidence in the ring can be attributed to her more experienced teammates who assist her every day in practice. With the help of Cal assistant coach John Dagata, she has been able to make huge improvements on her technique, which is an aspect that she claims to be relatively inexperienced in.
"If I throw 22 meters (72 feet), I'm taking my shirt off and doing a lap around the ring!" Amaechi said with a huge smile on her face. "I'm so excited because I know I'm capable of it."
Amaechi demonstrates the same enthusiasm and determined work ethic in the classroom. As a double major in African American studies and political science with a minor in education, Amaechi is already tackling her thesis as a junior while conducting research for the VéVé A. Clark Institute, a community of scholars in the Department of African American Studies.
"I love what I do," Amaechi said. "Every class that I take is because I'm 100 percent in tune with what I do."
Like many student-athletes, Amaechi has experienced ups and downs during her time at Cal, and last year was no exception. On the morning of Jan. 29, 2012, the day she was scheduled to compete at Junior Nationals in Chicago, Amaechi received news that her sister had lost her three-year battle with liver cancer. It was an unthinkable tragedy for Amaechi and her family, but has since given her a new outlook on the future and how she wants to approach every day.
"There are a lot of things in my life that are important and a lot of things that I know I'm capable of doing that I'm not doing, and there are a lot of avenues that I shouldn't overlook because you never know when those are going to close," Amaechi said.
Today, Amaechi has returned after a year away from the ring as the new school-record holder in the weight throw, with only two meets under her belt. As she receives more technical help from her coach and teammates, it seems that the sky is the limit for Amaechi. With three more years to contribute to the Cal track program, she is only getting started.
"I want to be the one that can't be beat," said Amaechi, again with her familiar smile.