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Maria Michta Heads to London for Olympics, Sets Personal Goals

Nesconset runner focuses on experience of living her dream that's been more than 12 years in the making.

 

As Nesconset resident , the race walker has set her focus on enjoying a dream that been more than 12 years in the making. 

"I remember when I was 10 years old, and I was asking my parents why we weren't at the Olympics in Georgia. Back then, I didn't understand the cost," Michta said. 

The Sachem North graduate says she's been dreaming of competing in the Games since 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta Georgia. Now in 18 days, Michta will compete in the 20-kilometer race walk for the United States on Aug. 11. 

"I'm so excited about the experience. I want to be with my family and enjoy the moment for now. I'm not rushing through it," she said. "I'll have plenty of time to get hyped up once I'm there." 

Michta wants to make every second of her dream count, as it has come at a great personal and financial cost. 

Michta said she began competing in race walking 12 years ago, competing for Sachem Girls Varsity track during her high school career. Her extensive training schedule has at times meant missing out many social occasions from high school graduation, hanging out with friends, family vacations and more. 

A 13-14 hour day is typical for the Olympian between training and persuing her PhD in microbiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, according to Joe Coffey, Michta's fiancé who works as varsity track coach at Sachem East High School.

On an average day, Michta wakes up around 6:30 a.m. and works out from Central Park in New York City from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. with a regiment of stretching and race walking. Her day might continue with a quick trip to a chiropractor or physical therapist to ensure she stays in top shape, before a full day of microbiology classes until 7:30 to 8 p.m. 

It might be the rigorous daily schedule that gives Michta the biggest edge on her Olympic competition. 

"Her mental strength is her biggest strength. She's in a great shape physically, you have to be, but on the track she won't give in to the pain," Coffey said.

Michta's mental toughness carried her through Olympic qualifier in Eugene, Oregon on July 7. The Nesconset runner won first place by 3.5 seconds after a 20 kilometer, or 12.5 mile, race walk. 

"It was one of the most emotionally draining days of our life and the family life when she raced for the Olympics," Coffey said. 

Now, they will relive the tension again as Michta races for the chance to win a gold medal in London. Yet, the Olympian has has much more realistic and down-to-earth expectations for herself. 

"I finished 30th out of 50 at the world last year, and I want to finish in the top 50 percent. I am going for the experience and to push myself as much as I can. I won't be happy unless I push myself as much as I can," Michta said. 

A lot of Olympian's race plans depend on the weather, as London has been experiencing a lot of rain over recent weeks, according to Michta. If the weather turns, she hopes to set a personal record.

Michta said it will be the waves of local support, from Nesconset residents and family to the Sachem East girls varsity track team, that will power her through the race.

"During the second half of the race, I dedicate laps to people who inspire me," Michta said. 

Support has been shown through fund raising of more than $2,000 to help pay her family's airfare to simple actions of signs and posted American flags. 

"One of our neighbors had staked American flags down the block, many of which were destroyed by . They responded by staking American flags along the two blocks that start my route to the airport," Michta said. "It's beyond special that people have supported us the entire way." 

Michta leaves for London on July 25 to take part in the opening ceremonies, one of the moments she's looking forward to most. 

"I can't wait for the opening ceremony. There's a moment of pride when you get called out at the American team and you get to march out to represent your home country," she said. 

Her other plans include watching some of the other Olympic contests and taking in as much of London before her Aug. 11 race. 

Michta's entire family and Coffey will be flying over to London Aug. 8 thanks to fund raising of the Nesconset and Sachem communities. 

"It's not much of a vacation. It's just to experience her racing in the Olypics, which is a once in a lifetime deal," Coffey said. "Who knows what 2016 will bring. We'll just enjoy every moment of 2012." 

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