Powerhouse Jessica Ramsey, 30, competed in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer. She joined the track and field team as a shot putter and scored 12th place in her Olympic debut. While glory is often saved for medal earners, she’s still one of the top athletes in the world and has her eyes firmly set on Paris.
It’s Jessica’s Olympic ambition that brought the Florida native to the MidSouth in 2016 to train under Ole Miss Track and Field coaches Connie Price Smith and John Smith. “Coach Connie is a four-time Olympian, so she told me about the experience,” Jessica says. “She taught me how to go to sleep, what to eat, how to stay focused, and to go in with a mindset that this is just another meet.”
She may have approached the U.S. Olympic Trials as “just another meet,” but by the time they were over, Jessica set a new record with a throw of 20.12 meters and qualified with just one throw. It also made her the third American woman in the world to throw more than 20 meters in the shot put.
Training Herself While Training Others
Ramping up for Tokyo was hectic because she was practicing twice a day in the months prior, while also holding down a job as an assistant manager at Insomnia Cookies on Beale Street.
Alongside those responsibilities, Jessica also helps coach student athletes where she trains at Ole Miss. She says, “I feel more like a mentor because I love speaking to the college kids and helping them learn and become better, not only as athletes but as people.” While she’s doling out advice, she’s reinforcing it for herself. Recently, a student asked Jessica how to balance work and training. “The best advice I will give is to make sure your mindset and health come first,” she says. “If you’re not taken care of then you won’t be able to practice or go to work or be your best in anything you do.”
Finding Her Focus
Jessica was 8 years old when she started competing in track and field events. As a sprinter throughout high school, she followed in her mom’s footsteps. When she got to Western Kentucky University, she zeroed in on her strength and power to set herself apart from other athletes.
“The hammer [throw] became my ultimate favorite because of the speed and technique used for it,” she explains. “I love to do things fast and explosively.” Although that was her favorite event, she opted to focus on shot put.
“What made me choose the shot put was my distances, the competition, and knowing where I was and where I could go with it,” she recalls. “It’s hard to do both when you have to put so much emphasis on one particular sport to be the best that you can.
”With this year being her first time at the Olympics, nerves may have played a part. “I feel like a lot of athletes hold a lot in because they have to live up to this expectation,” she says. “I’m still human and I go through things. My recovery is not just on my muscles; it’s within me and my mental health and how I’m feeling that day.” She plans to put as much focus on her mental game as she does physical training for the 2024 games.
The Olympic dream is something Jessica has been working toward for most of her life. Part of her motivation came from watching role models like American sprinter Carmelita Jeter compete when she was a little girl, and the rest comes from looking in the mirror. “In my bathroom, I have little sticky notes that say, ‘I am.’ I speak a lot of things into existence. I speak what I want, and I will always say that I’m No. 1 in everything that I do.”
Her positivity reaches far beyond her career, lifting up others around her. Jessica volunteers as a court-appointed specialist with CASA of Mississippi, advocating for neglected and abused children.
The advice she lives by: “Never give up. Always speak positivity and have positive energy around you. Never let anything, or anyone, get the best of you.” This incredible mindset (and lots of good karma) Jessica has cultivated will surely set her on a path to setting more records.
By Kelsey J. Lawrence
Photo by Tindall Stephens