HOWELL, Mich. – The world is 138 days away from the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
One of the best parts of the games are the stories of the athletes and everything that they went through to get there. One local woman did everything she could to fulfill her dream.
Amanda Chidester’s journey to the 2020 Olympics could be tracked all the way back to her t-ball days. It really started in 2012 and in that time there were hardships and setbacks, but she never gave up.
Four times a week, for two hours or more, Chidester is inside Phoenix Athletics in Howell working out. The idea is to push herself to the limit, to become the very best softball player she can be. Chidester came to trainer Chris Down a few years ago.
“I did an assessment and she came in. I saw a few things she could work on, gave her some drills and she felt improvement over the season and she contacted me to do the prep,” Down said.
Down is referring to preparation for the 2020 Olympics. Going to the Olympics has been a dream of Chidester’s since she was little and growing up with four brothers.
“They played baseball, they played football. If I wanted to play with them I needed to keep up with them. There were a lot of tears, a lot of me getting kicked out,” she said. “But it did make me better.”
Chidester said that competition at home bred a fierce competitor out on the courts and fields in Allen Park. She admitted basketball was her favorite sport, until her freshman year at Allen Park Cabrini.
Chidester moved on to her dream school and played for coach Carol Hutchins. Chidester became a two-time Big 10 player of the year at Michigan. The highlight, she said, is a home run in the college World Series her freshman year.
After college she went to Japan to play professionally, then she took a coaching job at Duke. Then, in 2016, came the announcement from the International Olympic Committee: softball would return to the Olympics for the first time since 2008. Chidester knew she had to quit her job and try to make it.
Immediately after making her decision, she suffered her first setback. At the World Championships, with the bases loaded, she shattered her wrist. She needed two surgeries to get back. In 2019, she faced her second setback -- she didn’t make Team USA.
Instead of hanging her head, Chidester went back to the gym. She worked harder, changed her routine, completely overhauled her nutrition in October and she was invited to the final tryout.
She did it. Through injury, through people telling her she wasn’t good enough, she is now a catcher and first baseman with Team USA. She is heading to Tokyo. She said it won’t hit her until she gets there and hopefully gets to stand on a podium.
“All that work going into it ... Then sitting there watching the National Anthem, that’s what I keep envisioning through all this,” she said.