Ambrose brings home gold
Jo Ambrose has quite a collection of medals from competing in the state Sr. Olympics since 2017. She has been a medal winner in the Shot Put, Discus and Javelin events. Photo by Kathleen Clark.
A table full of memorabilia from Jo Ambrose’s recent competitions, including the Gold Medal for the farthest discus throw, 82’ 0.25”, of any woman age 60 to 64 in North America. Photo by Kathleen Clark.
By KATHLEEN CLARK
Enquirer Democrat Writer
It’s only been one month since Jo Ambrose made the most exciting discus throw of her life. With a powerful throw of 82’ 0.25” she secured herself a title few in the world can claim: a Gold medal winner in the National Senior Games, otherwise known as the Senior Olympics.
The challenges were real that day, June 18, in at the University of New Mexico. Top notch competitors from across North America, a wicked side wind, extreme heat and a day that started at the crack of dawn as she competed in the Shot Put event (she ended up placing a respectable 11th in this event).
Months of training and analyzing how far she needed to throw paid off. She had respectable throws during preliminaries (just short of 78 feet) that put her in the national finals. “Discus was the last event of the day. The stadium was empty and it was windy,” recalls Ambrose. As she stepped up to make her final throw her technique, strength and determination came together for a spectacular throw. “I knew when I let go and saw it hit, This Is Good! There were five more people to go. I watched them and thought, I got it! I was pretty excited.” Then, the announcement, Jo Ambrose of Scottville, was the 60 to 64 Women’s Discus Gold Medalist with a throw of over 82 feet. “I was so excited. I was shaking; I couldn’t even tie my shoes!”
Ambrose is no stranger to track and field events. She was active in sports in high school and college. She was on the first Northwestern High School, Palmyra, girl’s track and field team after Title nine was passed in the early 1970’s. This was legislation that called for equal funding of organized women’s sports in the education system. “I did shot put and discus at Northwestern and won several local and county events,” says Ambrose. Before that, women participated in Play Days organized by the Girls Athletic Association.
After high school, she attended Iowa Wesleyan University, but finished her college career at Western Illinois University when they offered her a full ride scholarship to join their newly formed track team in 1976. Throughout the years, Ambrose has been heavily involved in sports. She was a volleyball official for 20 years, played softball and currently is on two area golf leagues. At the 40th anniversary of her college graduation, she got the itch to see if she still had what it took. She was familiar with the Sr. Olympics through her work with the state for the Public Health Department and Human Services Division of Rehabilitative Services. She looked up what distances for discus and shot were being thrown at her age level and what the qualifications were to have the chance to go to the national competition. “I thought, I can do that.”
She participated in the state Sr. Olympics in 2017 and 2018, sailing through qualifications for nationals and earning gold and silver medals each year.
She picked up on training this spring before heading to New Mexico for the National Senior Games. The competition featured athletes over 50 years old in several age categories. There were 13,712 athletes at the 2019 Senior Games that competed in 20 sports. Ambrose says, “It was amazing to see the older athletes there and what they accomplished.”
Amborse says the most exciting part of this journey was honing her skills and getting back into the sport she did in high school and college 40 years ago. “I was very happy just to go out and try. And I ended up with a gold medal! It was beyond my wildest dreams.”
When asked about advice to others who might be interested in getting back into their sport of choice, Ambrose suggests looking up qualifications and results from recent Sr. Olympics. “Use that as a goal- see if you can get there. If you enjoy playing the game or doing the sport – that’s what the senior games are all about. Come out, compete. Stay active.”
Since returning home, she has been in a whirlwind of well-wishes from family and friends. “A ton of people want to meet with me and I have to bring my medal to show them The support was awesome, really good. I am very humbled and overwhelmed.”
Ambrose lives in rural Scottville, enjoys traveling throughout the United States and around the globe, staying active and hanging out with her family. She is not sure if she will try out for nationals again. “I may just go out on top,” she says. But, it sounds as though the decision is not final, “20 years from now I may decide to try it again.”