SOFIA, Bulgaria – Former Western Oregon University track and field student-athlete Janna Vander Meulen had an experience few can imagine at the 2013 Summer Deaflympics.
In her first race of the week on Thursday, she established a new American deaf record in the 400-meter hurdles as she finished in a time of 1 minute, 2.35 seconds to capture a bronze medal.
“It was the first time I had ever run a preliminary and a final race in the same day,” Vander Meulen said. “I don’t know why they scheduled it like that and I was very nervous. I saved my energy for the final and was excited about finishing third, just barely missing second place.”
The former Wolves star was in a photo-finish for second place, but was edged at the finish line by Yuliya Shapoval of Ukraine.
Estonia’s Emilija Manninen captured gold in the event, establishing a new world record of 1:01.62. Vander Meulen established the new American mark in a fast race that saw the top three finishers surpass Manninen’s world record time she set in 2009.
That was just the beginning for Vander Meulen, who once again took on the challenge of two races in one day Friday, when she ran in the 100-meter hurdles.
“I was edged out at the line again by the same woman who won the 400-meter,” Vander Meulen said.
Vander Meulen did have enough take home the silver medal with a time of 14.22 seconds, setting another American Deaflympics record.
“I couldn’t believe that I broke two American deaf records within 24 hours. It was beyond my expectations and all of my hard training had paid off,” Vander Meulen said.
On Saturday, Vander Meulen would take home a third medal – and third American record – when her 4×100-meter relay team took second place with a time of 47 seconds.
“The overall experience was amazing and something I will always remember,” Vander Meulen said. “I would not have been able to do any of this without my family and friends who have supported me all the way to the Deaflympics.”