Olympian remembered as happy-go-lucky teen

Courtesy photo Amber Campbell as a seventh-grader in Tucumcari.

By Chelle Delaney: Freedom New Mexico

Tucumcari residents who knew Olympian Amber Campbell are excited for the happy-go-lucky teenager they remember who attended local elementary and middle schools.

Campbell, 27, will be competing in the qualifying rounds of the hammer throw event on Monday, and in the finals on Wednesday if she advances.

The women’s hammer is a 4 kilogram (8.8 pounds) steel ball on a 4-foot long wire attached to a metal handle. Campbell’s personal record is 70.33 meters or 230 feet, 6 inches.

“She was always happy,” recalled Denise Madrid-Reid, who was a Tucumcari classmate of Campbell’s.

Madrid-Reid’s Rattler middle school yearbook for 1993-1994 shows Campbell was an active teenager who was a member of the drill team and choir, as well as a participant on the seventh-grade volleyball and basketball teams.

Campbell lived in Tucumcari from 1983 to 1995 before the family moved to Indianapolis.

Last month, she told the Quay County Sun that her years in Tucumcari “played a key role” in her success today. “It sparked my love for athletics. There was always something to do, even if it was only kickball in front of the house. There was always a game to participate in. I played softball on the little league team. It sparked my interest.”

Another classmate of Campbell’s, Amber Simpson, said Campbell always seemed to be in a good mood and happy.

“She was always happy and energetic,” Simpson said. “We played volleyball and basketball together. She was very physically fit. She was very athletic, competitive.”

Another Tucumcari resident, who has enjoyed the Olympic experiece, Rex Maddaford recalled he was Campbell’s physical education teacher at the Tucumcari Elementary School.

A runner from New Zealand, Maddaford competed in the 1968 games,

“She was a regular student,” Maddaford recalled. “She seems to have found her niche. Sometimes you do all these sports and then you hit it just right.”

Campbell said it was her coach who suggested she try the hammer throw at Coastal Carolina University at Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Simpson remembers Campbell was from an athletic family and that one of Campbell’s brothers, Donnie, was a Rattler basketball star who also became a well-known college player for St. Louis University.

It is no surprise to Simpson that her former seventh-grade teammate is at the Olympics. “She was tough,” Simpson said. “I’m excited for her. I’m not suprised at all.”