A Mother's Quest For Another Olympic Games: Chantae McMillan's Drive To Win

A Mother's Quest For Another Olympic Games: Chantae McMillan's Drive To Win

Chantae McMillan is an Olympian in the heptathlon, having represented the US in the 2012 London Olympics.  Twelve years later, her life looks a little different; she's now balancing her elite training in heptathlon and javelin with being the wife of a US Army helicopter pilot and mother to her two young sons.

No matter what happens in this Olympic year, we are inspired by Chantae's drive to be her best and the manner in which she models her drive and determination. In celebration of strong and determined women, we are sharing this Q&A with Chantae for Mother's Day and hope you are inspired by her desire to get the best from herself in any stage of life. 

What does a typical day in the life look like for you?

A typical day for me starts by waking up at seven am. My one-year-old, Ellis, and I hang out and I get him breakfast while I prep his bag for the sitter, prep my five-year-old Otto's lunch, and get myself breakfast and coffee. I take our dog Zoo out, get him breakfast, and let my rabbits out in their playpen for the day. Next, we transition to everyone getting dressed and out the door before nine.  After getting the kids to school and the sitter, I head to the track for the next few hours.

The days are often packed and I have to be efficient. Some days Otto and I grab some groceries quickly before picking Ellis up. The three of hang out for a few hours at this point and some days I have recovery appointments scheduled before heading home to start dinner. Other days, I skip family dinner so I can get back to the gym and my husband gets the dinner sorted for them. 

Before bed, it's all about decompressing. The kids will get a bath and then my husband and I have time to hang out, while I work on mobility and watch film. I try to be showered and in bed by 8:50 where I read a little of my motivational books, then watch a little tv, and then repeat the next day!

How do you find balance and what does that mean to you?

To me, balance is the different spaces I am in each day. I am a hyper focused athlete at the track, then pick up my kids and become mom, making sure they are fed and taken care of. In this season of life, being the best athlete and best mom/wife are my top priorities, so my balance is truly being present in each moment so I can enjoy each space. I also volunteer at a horse rescue once a week that helps me get outdoors with animals and forget about everything else for that hour. Overall, I thrive on being able to leave one space and enjoy the space of something else which is my current definition of balance. 

How do you find motivation and what are some tools when you're lacking motivation that you call on?

I am very intrinsically motivated. I want to expand my God-given talents before I can no longer be this athlete. Learning new technical aspects of each event also motivates me so much: how one little change can make the biggest impact on an event! Then, at the end of it all, I am just motivated to be the better athlete in practice with training partners and at meets.

What is your proudest moment in sport?

My proudest moment is from August 2011 through June 2012. I tore my patellar tendon and rehabbed until March. Once I was back on the track, I had to learn to high jump and long jump off my other leg, as well as continue to get better in the other five events. Making the the Olympic team with a PR after all of that focus and hard work was rewarding and I learned a lot about myself over those nine months that has helped me be successful to this day. 

What is a moment in sport that was particularly challenging for you? What has it taught you?

I think looking back at 2016, I had a hard time with the event that I had the most history with: the long jump. I had switched legs in 2012 with my surgery and by 2016 I just felt like I couldn't remember what to do at all that year, technically speaking. That year marked my retirement in heptathlon.  

Until now. I am back and I believe my time off from sport and small coaching opportunities through the years has opened my eyes to seeing long jump and every other event with a fresh perspective. I have seen small ways to make improvements and that makes me excited to give it another go.

What would you take with you to this Olympic games that you did not have in your first? 

I will be able to take with me the ability to truly compete in each of the seven events. Showing up mentally prepared for each event entails competing, debriefing from one event and preparing for the next, seven times in a row, with a night's break in between.

What makes Chantae shine?

I come alive when I am continuously learning and able to grow as a person, also helping people I am surrounded by grow as well. I have a spirit to help others and hope to touch as many people's lives as I can while I am here.

Chantae, you truly do shine. Thank you for sharing your insight and fortitude to chase big goals. Learning from the past and implementing a fresh perspective can be the so powerful. We wish you the best as you work towards your goals in 2024!