SPOKANE, Wash. – Tom Walker is a deputy for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Department. As a diver for the University of Illinois, Tom always had one dream, to go to the Olympics. He never made it as a diver. He will be going to London, as a proud dad. His son, Brad Walker, will be competing in his second Olympic games, and Tom could not be prouder. “A friend of mine from high school said, he’s living your dream. And I said, yes, he is. And I get to live it with him. It’s fun, it really is. The whole thing is about him, the hard work that he has done, his dedication,” Tom said.
It all started in Spokane. Like his dad, Brad was quite the athlete. “Growing up, we didn’t think he would do anything but football. He lived and breathed football. Seventh grade, I guess, they came over to Horizon Junior High and asked people if anyone wanted to pole vault and try Track and Field, and Brad was like, yah, might as well, sounded like fun. And the rest is, as you say, history,” Tom remembers.
Brad took his pole-vaulting from University High School in the Spokane Valley to the University of Washington on a partial scholarship. A couple years later, Brad got a full ride to UW. It was then that Brad knew he did not want to put the pole down. Tom said, “I asked him what are you going to do for a living once you graduate from college? And he said, ‘Dad, I want to pole vault.’ And I said ok. Little did I know.”
Brad went on to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games. There, he was expected to win a medal. However, it didn’t pan out that way. He didn’t even make it past the first round. Tom was there for all of it. “We met him outside the stadium after the meet and grabbed him in our arms and everyone was crying and saying…what do you say? It’s the Olympics and you are favored to win a gold medal. And you no-high in the prelims. How do you handle that? What can you say to the athlete?”
Tom found out a couple months later why he wasn’t vaulting up to his usual heights. Brad had been pole-vaulting in an incredible amount of pain. Doctors found out he had ruptured one lower vertebra and 2 two others that were bulged. Brad had back surgery. But he would not let that stop him. He used the disappointment in Beijing to motivate him, becoming a better athlete than he ever was before. And his old man is so proud of him. “How many parents can say their kids have gone to the Olympics two times, and have bounced back from an injuries mentally could destroy an athlete, but did not let it. He’s got all the tools, and he is making them work,” Tom said.
Today, Brad is back in London, getting ready for his big vault. This time is different. “I have never seen him so positive, I have never seen him as excited as he is right now. I think that’s going to make the whole thing,” Tom shared.
Brad is approaching these Olympics differently. 2008, it was all business for Brad. Nothing but jumping. He didn’t even go to the Opening Ceremonies because he did not want to wear his legs out. This year, he went to the Opening Ceremonies and had a blast. Tom said this better for him. ” He is doing what an Olympian needs to do. How many Olympics do you participate in? Live in the moment, and that’s what he is doing this time.”
And Tom says, this is Brad’s time. “My gut feeling is he is going to win. My gut is he is going to set and Olympic record, and come close to the world record. What better place to do it on then the largest stage in the world.”
And Tom will be there, to watch every moment. “Brad’s bounced back, better than ever…This is London. Whole new Brad,” Tom said.
Tom said that it’s really important for Spokane to support all of its local athletes. If you would like to cheer Brad on, he is very active on social media. Send him a tweet! Brad’s twitter handle is @SkyWalkerPV. Leave him a note on his Facebook page…Brad Walker. Brad’s qualifying round is on Wednesday August 8th, and his finals two days later on Friday August 10th.
by: Katie Steiner