By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
Sitting in her home in Punta Gorda, Amanda Carr forced herself to watch the BMX portion of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Carr didn’t want to, but she knew she had to.
A few months prior, the Charlotte High School graduate was in the United Kingdom hoping to qualify for that very event.
She didn’t, and she was devastated.
“I’ve thought a lot of about that moment since then,” Carr said. “There’s only one word I can use to describe that feeling, and it’s ‘empty’. I just felt empty inside. I didn’t know what to feel. Obviously I was sad, but the main feeling that drives the sadness is emptiness because you know the dream wasn’t fulfilled.”
So when Aug. 8 rolled around, she knew precisely what that date meant. It was the day she should have been back in London fulfilling that dream.
“I was still pretty upset inside, and I said I wasn’t going to watch,” Carr said. “I tried really hard not to watch. I knew exactly what day and time it was on, and I couldn’t not watch it.
“I remember watching the race, and watching girls from other countries who I’ve raced against who were ranked lower than me. I knew I needed another path to pursue my dreams.”
For Carr, another path was provided in a way she never expected.
Before the Olympic qualifiers a few months prior, she ran into the delegation from Thailand. At the time, Carr didn’t even know Thailand competed in BMX cycling, but they made her an offer which would change her life for the better.
After a conversation, the delegation told Carr they wanted her to compete for them, which was possible because her mother, LaMoon, was born there.
Carr took some time to think about it.
She had planned to go on and live a normal life after failing to qualify.
She re-enrolled in college, set to attend the University of South Florida, but watching her competitors live out their dreams clinched her decision to continue to pursue her’s.
“The decision wasn’t necessarily an easy one,” Carr said. “Once an athlete changes nationalities, that athlete can never ever return to compete again for that other country — not even for another sport. I remember my dad looking at me and saying ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’ Without any hesitation, I said to him, ‘This is likely my last chance at getting to the Olympics.’”
Carr switched nationalities, and was now competing for her mother’s homeland.
“It means a lot to me,” LaMoon Carr said. “It’s really cool to see.”
Four years after the devastation which left her feeling empty, her BMX career is soaring.
She won a gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games, and in June, her dreams officially came true. She qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s a phenomenal process to watch,” Carr’s father, Darol, said. “Amanda has been dedicated to that process for six years, and it’s been a fascinating evolution of her person and personality.”
Carr recently spent a week in San Diego training for the Olympics. She’ll head down to Brazil for the opening ceremonies, come back to Florida and return to South America before her event, which is scheduled for Aug. 17.
Now that she’s officially an Olympic athlete, there’s really only one thing she can’t wait to do. Obviously, a medal would be nice, but the highlight for Carr will come before she competes.
“As an athlete, I’ve always envisioned you’re on the playing field or wherever you are, and you look in the stands and see your parents,” Carr said. “The one thing I’m looking forward to the most is being at the starting gate, looking up, and seeing my parents there.”
Four years after feeling empty while watching the Olympics from home, Carr will be right where she’s supposed to be: competing in the sport she loves. And to her, that means: “life is simple. There’s no weight on my shoulders.”