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Rockhurst Grad Recalls Olympic ExperienceFebruary 21, 2014
This month, thousands of athletes from around the world descended on Sochi, Russia, in an attempt to do well both by their individual sports and their home nations.
For those athletes, it can be an enormous amount of pressure, said Terry (Poindexter) Gautreaux, a 1992 Rockhurst University graduate who speaks from experience.
In May 1992, Gautreaux was a newly minted communications graduate who would find herself going from walking across the commencement stage at Rockhurst to taking the medal podium after winning the bronze at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona in a mere matter of months.
Starting her martial arts training at age 12, Gautreaux competed through high school and was for four years part of the collegiate national team in taekwondo. Gautreaux said she had grown up watching the Olympics with her family, though she admitted competing in the games herself was not something she had given a lot of thought.
“It really all kind of fell into place,” she said.
At that time, taekwondo was still new to the lineup at the games. The event had debuted at the previous Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, as an exhibition sport. In 1992, it was contested as a demonstration sport, meaning medals were awarded but they did not count toward the final medal count.
Gautreaux said Olympic trials began the week after graduation. Once she secured a spot, it would be a grueling regimen — the team would practice three times a day, six days a week, starting at about 5:30 a.m. each morning. Used to instead working practice times into her schedule alongside other athletes with whom she had known for so long, Gautreaux said the pace and intensity of the Olympic schedule at first left her feeling overwhelmed and a little homesick.
“There was so much going on and we were so focused on training,” she said. “You can easily forget to enjoy yourself,” she said.
Eventually, Gautreaux said she got somewhat used to the environment, settling in and allowing events like the opening ceremony to sink in. Even more so than standing on the podium to receive her bronze medal, she said those are the memories she cherishes most.
“To this day, that’s one of my favorite moments,” she said. “Walking into the arena, it was overwhelming — I was just filled with so much pride, knowing that I was representing both my country and all of the other athletes in my sport.”
In the years since, Gautreaux established a martial arts studio of her own in Blue Springs, Mo., Gautreaux’s Martial Arts Centers, with her husband Oren, and still occasionally recounts her experience to students at area schools and other groups. She said she still never misses an Olympics.
“Summer and winter, I’m glued to it,” she said.