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Thanks, Mom

By Karen Rosen and Doug Williams | May 13, 2012, 12:24 a.m. (ET)

Shawn Johnson with Mom 

DALLAS --- Mother’s Day officially is today, but Sarah Robles gave her mother her gift back in March when she won the 2012 USA Weightlifting Olympic Trials.

The real gift will come, of course, this summer in London where Robles plans to represent Team USA in the 2012 Olympic Games. Her mom, Joy, was not able to afford the trip from her home in San Jacinto, Calif., to Columbus, Ohio, to see Robles qualify for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team (pending nomination from the U.S. Olympic Committee), but she will be there in London.

“My family watched the Trials on a webcast,” Robles said. “But they will be there in London.”
Robles, along with every other Team USA athlete, will be able to have their mothers come to London courtesy of a program called “Thank You Mom,” a campaign run by Procter & Gamble that will provide $1,000 toward expenses for mothers of about 800 U.S. Olympians and Paralympic athletes.

In addition, the company will create the P&G Family Home in London where moms can relax and spend time with their athletes during the London Games. P&G introduced the Family Home during the Vancouver Games.  Robles and her mom were in New York City earlier this week on NBC’s “Today” show to promote the campaign.

Throughout Robles’ career, her mother has been one of her most staunch supporters. Joy Robles worked several jobs, as a manager of a McDonald’s, working at a wholesale club and in daycare, in large part because her husband, Dennis, suffered a stroke. Formerly in the Air Force, Dennis became disabled following his stroke and Joy had to take time off from work to take care of him. During the five years when she took care of him, the family lived off of his social security. Dennis Robles died but her mother continues to be at her side.

“Team Robles is really me and my mom,” Sarah Robles said. “She’s been there for me through all the good times and the bad. I am thankful to have such a brave, strong woman as my mom.”

Even with the financial problems, Joy Robles made sure Sarah went to school and to practice. Robles started out in track and field and later concentrated on weightlifting. It was only recently that Robles learned that her coach couldn’t give her more practice time because of financial restraints.

“My coach told me he couldn’t push me more because I couldn’t afford it,” Robles said.

Now she’s the best in the United States and is ready to compete against the best in the world in London.

And her mom plans on being there to witness it.

“The gift from P&G is a wonderful surprise,” said Joy Robles said in a news release. “I have watched Sarah work toward this moment since she was a child, and if it weren’t for the generosity of P&G, I may not have been able to be in London to share her Olympic Games dream.”     Mother’s Day was on the minds of plenty of athletes who were attending the 2012 Team USA Media Summit in which about 110 athletes and 500 media members convened in Dallas.

One mom who attended the summit was hurdler Lashinda Demus, who has twin boys who will turn 5 in June. Demus was considered one America’s top hurdlers leading up to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games but she struggled with depression and regaining her physical form and wound up fourth at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Four years later, Demus finds herself in a much better place. She is the American record holder in the 400 hurdles with a time of 52.47 and is the reigning world champion, having won a gold medal in that event in Daegu, South Korea, in 2011.

And who would be her coach?

Her mom. Yolanda Rich Demus, was a four-time national champion at Cal State.
Demus’ husband is also part of her team, assisting her as her agent.

“I wanted to make sure that everyone on my team was for me,” Lashinda Demus said. “I had to take out any doubt … I decided to keep everything in the family.”

Her mom and husband, as well as aunts and uncles also help Demus when it comes to babysitting.
Demus said having her mom as her coach has worked out well.

“She’s strict, but she’s not a yeller,” Demus said. “She’s going to tell you what you don’t want to hear, like, ‘You’re slow.’ Her training is hard.”

But Demus added, “She tells me that I’m the perfect athlete to coach.”

Demus’ mom was actually her first coach and then Demus worked with high school and college coaches. In 2009, she returned to her mom.

Demus’ mom might be on the sidelines, but her biggest fans are her sons. If she doesn’t win a race, they get concerned.

“I don’t know if they’re into track and field, but they’re into seeing me run,” Demus said.

Earlier this week, Demus visited her sons’ school for a Mother’s Day event.

“They were both so excited,” said Demus, who arrived in her track suit. “They drew pictures of me without a nose or a mouth.”

Should she find redemption at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field in June and make the U.S. team in London, she will have plenty of family support along for the ride. Her mom, husband and sons will join her.

Another U.S. track and field star had her mom with her at the Media Summit. Sanya Richards-Ross was joined by her mom, Sharon, in Dallas.  Sharon doubles as her daughter’s agent and for five years has been to all of her daughter’s track meets. Richards-Ross’ parents came to the United States from Jamaica when Richards-Ross was 12.

“My mom has meant so much to my success,” said Richards-Ross, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist in the 4 x 400 and a bronze medalist in the 400. “They gave my sister and myself greater opportunity in life.

“I just couldn’t say more for what she has meant to my career and meant to my life,” Richards-Ross said.

“She’s a great person and I hope to be the same kind of mother she is to me to my kids one day.”

Olympic gold medalist gymnast Shawn Johnson, who is attempting a comeback for the London Games, said she could not imagine where she would be without her mother’s support. Johnson is featured in a YouTube video talking about her mother, Teri.  Teri Johnson was a motivator for Shawn following a ski accident in 2010 when Shawn was not sure she could compete in gymnastics again.

“My mom always loves me and is there for me,” Johnson said. “She loves me for who I am, and that comfort and support has allowed me to fulfill my dreams.”

Paralympic swimmer Jessica Long, who hopes to compete in nine events in London, was adopted from a Russian orphanage and her adoptive parents raised her, a brother who was also adopted, and four other children in Baltimore. In addition to supporting her swimming career, Long’s mom also home schooled all of her children.

“I give my mom so much credit,” Long said.

One mom has truly earned the title of an Olympic mom since she produced three U.S. Olympic taekwondo athletes: Steven, Mark and Diana Lopez. Her name is Ondina Lopez, and this summer, Steven and Diana will represent Team USA and the Lopez family at the Olympic Games in London. Steven Lopez is a three-time Olympic medalist, winning gold medals in Sydney and Athens and a bronze in Beijing and qualified for London this summer.

“I owe everything to my mom,” Steven Lopez said. “My mom is like the Queen Bee. She’s a loving woman, but she’s really tough. She’s almost like Spartan-like. I remember when I was growing up, she always said, ‘Mind over matter. Your mind is such a strong thing.’ I remember having a little fever and she’s like, ‘Sweat it out.’ That’s the kind of woman she is. She’s my sports psychologist. She always said, ‘You’re the best. You’re the greatest. You can do anything. She always stressed how being mediocre is the worst thing that you can possibly be. So you have to shine.

“I remember the metaphor she gave me translates better in Spanish, but she said, ‘If you’re going to be a street sweeper, make sure you’re the best.’ Whatever it is you choose to be, be the best that you can be at it. ‘Don’t let anyone else beat you and enjoy.’ ”

Amy Rosewater and Karen Rosen are freelance contributors for teamusa.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.