How Professional Long Jumper Kate Hall Manages Her Diabetes While Training for the Olympics
Kate Hall is a two-time national collegiate champion and the national high school record-holder in the long jump. She plans to compete in the U.S. Olympic trials in 2021 with the hopes of being the first known U.S. track and field Olympian with type 1 diabetes.
Olympic Dreams from a Young Age
Hall set her sights on the Olympics early in her career. "I knew that I wanted to be an Olympian as I was watching the 2012 Olympic trials," says Hall, who was 14 at the time. Hall was the best high school long jumper in Maine, yet her distances were a full 6 feet behind those Olympians. "I wrote the 2016 Olympic standards on a piece of paper and stuck it above my mirror to motivate me each morning." Dedicating herself to that dream had a huge impact on her performance. In the final jump of her senior year, she shocked everyone by jumping a huge personal best. "I had been jumping 20 feet as a senior and wanted to jump 21 feet so badly." With the adrenaline pumping, Hall jumped 22 feet, 5 inches. "It was an amazing feeling—I can't really describe it."
Facing Setbacks in Her Career
Hall's plans to compete in the 2020 Olympic trials were rattled in March, when the Olympics were officially postponed until 2021. But this wasn't the first time she experienced a setback in her career. "When I was in high school, I had this idea that I was going to go to college and accomplish all my goals," Hall says. Unfortunately, when she arrived, it wasn't what she expected. "The training was insane. It was four or five hours of practice every day with lifting and a lot of sprinting. My body immediately started to break down because, as a person with type 1, I've learned that I need more recovery than most athletes." Because she was a Division I athlete, Hall's school was responsible for purchasing her diabetes supplies. But last-minute orders before competitions added stress to managing diabetes while traveling. "I should have been focusing on track, not if I had enough insulin for my Omnipod," says Hall.
Learning How to Balance Training and Recovery
"I decided to forgo my last collegiate season and have extra time with [my former] coach, who knows about type 1 diabetes, before the Olympic year," says Hall, who returned to Maine in June 2018 to train under her high school coach. "He's all about training hard when it matters and resting in between workouts so my body can recover." Taking her training day-by-day has left her not only stronger, but also healthier. "If I'm training the right way, my blood sugars are better too," Hall says.
Keeping Her Eyes on Tokyo 2021
"It's easy to look at me or other type 1 athletes and think that we have everything under control, [that our] blood sugar must be so good. But it's important to say that that isn't always the case. I have struggled in the past, and I still struggle every single day. You can learn from these experiences and go on to do amazing things," she says. Even through the disappointment of having to wait another year to try to make the Olympic team, Hall remains hopeful and steadfast in her dream. In an Instagram post following the announcement of the postponement, she wrote: "Tokyo 2021 means one more year to get stronger, faster, and more powerful than ever. I'll be ready."
This story originally appeared in Diabetic Living Summer 2020.