Follow the Pac-12 to Rio: Pac-12 Networks Softball
It’s time to follow the Pac-12 to Rio! Leading into the 2016 Olympic Games, Pac-12 Networks Insider will profile its on-air talent with Olympic ties. Whether they’re broadcasters, competitors or have accomplished both feats, we have you covered.
This week, Pac-12 Networks Insider features softball analyst and Olympic gold medalist, Amanda Freed.
It started with an email.
There were 15 names on a list. Amanda Freed’s was one of them.
She officially made the Olympic team. It kicked off a year she will never forget.
Four years removed from Team USA’s second gold medal victory in softball, Freed’s neck was left bare as just an alternate for the team in 2000.
“In the back of your mind you think, ‘Wow, there’s 18 phenomenal athletes, I can’t imagine who wouldn’t be one of those 15,’” says Freed. “Seeing my name on the list was a huge sigh of relief and excitement because it was something that I worked extremely hard for, my entire life.”
A four-year process including yearly tryouts and international tournaments got her ready to make the 2004 Olympic squad just a year and a half after graduating from UCLA, in pursuit of that gold medal she coveted.
However, she and her teammates were not prepared for a major blow to their family that summer. Head coach Mike Candrea lost his wife just weeks before the trip to Athens.
“She had been traveling with us for a lot of our tour before the Olympics. It happened when we were on the road. Our group of girls had been together for so long, it was a real family atmosphere so it hit us hard.”
The United States ended up outscoring their opponents 51-1 en route to the gold medal.
“We just completely dominated. A lot of sports kind of disperse and then get back together to tryout and make a team; they’re on the team but not really teammates. We had been together for years. That was big for our team.”
After winning the gold medal game, the podiums came out. Freed recalls that moment in time to be like an “out-of-body experience.”
“I just remember standing up there and seeing everyone, all of our friends and family in the stands. I’m thinking ‘oh my gosh I can’t believe that it’s over and we did it.’ When you’re in the moment you go game-by-game-by-game. It’s just a battle every time. Then, to finally stand there on the podium, it’s surreal.”
Freed, who just finished her third year with Pac-12 Networks, says to future Olympians to take the moment in and try not to focus all on winning and losing.
“I know that’s hard to do, it’s easier said than done but there is so much to remember from the games that has nothing to do with competition. Things that you’ll want to remember, experiences that you’ll never forget. Get to know people from other countries, make new friends, take lots of pictures and keep in touch with people. Soak in the entire experience.”
The atmosphere at the Olympics was something she had never felt before. Athletes from all over the world were in one place, mingling with each other and dining together.
“Everyone was talking about the memories and their competitions. It was such an interactive experience, I loved it.”
After she finished school, Freed reached out to the Special Olympics.
“I had always loved the Special Olympics. When I was done playing softball in 2008, I worked a few jobs there and participated in various activities. Now, I’ve been doing it for 8 years. I can’t get enough.”
She has become an ambassador and spokesperson for Special Olympics.
“Being around the athletes makes me smile. It reminds me how much I loved playing. I think what they do at Special Olympics is great and authentic, everything sports should be.”
Check back this Thursday for a feature on Pac-12 Networks women’s volleyball analyst Holly McPeak.