Perhaps the fifth time will be the charm for Amy Acuff. The 36-year-old Texan claimed third place in the women's high jump final Saturday night at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., solidifying a spot on Team USA in London.
Acuff, who briefly retired from the sport in 2009 after becoming a mother, never finished higher than fourth in the event during her previous four Olympic endeavors. That result came at the 2004 Games in Athens.
“Athens was a fond memory,” Acuff told reporter Karen Rosen. “Clearing 6-6 ¼ on a first attempt, which launched me into the medals, and then I was pushed out. It was very exciting to be in the mix at the end. That’s what I would like to achieve again.”
Her qualification extends an impressive, albeit medal-less, run of Olympic appearances. Acuff has been a member of every American Olympic team since the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
She will join fellow American high-jumpers Chaunte Lowe and Brigetta Barrett in London. Lowe established a new national Olympic trials record by clearing 6 feet, 7 inches.
The record had been held by Louise Ritter since 1988.
Lowe figures to fight for a spot on the winner's podium in London. Even if Acuff doesn't advance far at the 2012 Summer Games, her surprising swan song is certainly among the many heartwarming stories you can always expect to hear about every time the Olympics roll around.
"I really thought I was done," she told ESPN reporter Jim Caple. "But I'm like a moth to the flame. I got the bug and I came back. Actually, I really surprised myself pretty early at how certain kinds of fitness don't go away. Even after just vegetating for two years."
Acuff is a six-time U.S. outdoor champion ('95, '97, '01, '03, '05, '07) and five-time U.S. Indoor champ ('01, '04, '07, '08, '09).
Even Acuff seemed stunned and slightly amused by Saturday's results. She made light of her longevity and tenure with Team USA immediately after the performance.
She will turn 37 before the opening ceremonies take place in London.
"I was on the circuit 20 years ago competing internationally," Acuff told ESPN. "It's like death, taxes and me."
Practices have been going so well. There are only a few meets left, but I feel like I could PR this year, which is really surprising, not only because I'm 37 years old, but that you could do this for so long and then find a way to improve. So it's kind of shocking really.