Many times when athletes begin their track & field careers, they envision being a runner. Usually it is not until a coach or fellow athlete provides insight on the many other events and competitions that an athlete switches to another event. This was the case for Tia Brooks and her career as a shot put thrower, “I started off as a runner in the 100 and 200 m competition. It wasn’t until my coach convinced my mom and I that I should make the transition to becoming a shot put thrower, that I began to really work on this. I realized I could work on throwing the shot put and run on the side,” said Brooks. After becoming a very successful shot put thrower, this became the best opportunity for her to compete as an athlete in college, “I never was going to be a runner in college, but the shot put provided me the opportunity to receive a scholarship at the University of Oklahoma. After winning state my senior of high school and setting many records, throwing the shot put became my future,” Brooks said.
Tia began her freshman year on the Oklahoma Track & Field team like any other athlete, but her career quickly came to a dramatic and nearly devastating end. During a routine lift one day, Brooks’s legs went numb. She was subsequently spine boarded and later told by her college coach, Brian Blutreich, a former shot putter and Olympic discus thrower, that she could face many future challenges if she continued to compete, “After an MRI, I learned that I had two bulging disks, among other back issues. My coach sat me down and said that from his own experiences and working with other athletes, the long term affects on my body could be severe. He really cared about me and said that it was important to be able to walk and play with my grandchildren when I am older, but that he did believe in my talent, as well as my ability to possibly recover,” said Brooks. After hearing this, she weighed all of her options but she was not ready to give up, “Coach told me that I could try and see if rehab would work, and that he would support me in whatever I chose. My scholarship would stay even if decided to stop throwing, but I didn’t want to quit. I didn’t want to give up and I knew I had the strength to keep going,” said Brooks. Brooks took the rest of the year off from throwing, but she stayed committed and did not give up from the sport.
Following her recovery from the injury, Tia’s career began to take off. Her hard work, strong coaching, and will to improve allowed Brooks to achieve great success in her later years at Oklahoma. In 2012, Brooks won the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships. In addition, she was named first team All-American in both the outdoor and indoor events. She qualified for the 2012 US Olympic Team, where she placed 19th overall. She defended her indoor NCAA title following the Olympics in 2013 and also placed second in the 2015 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. As the Olympics for this year get closer, Brooks has her eye set on improving in Rio, “At the Olympics in 2012, I was still a college athlete. I had success on the collegial level, but I wasn’t working on a professional season schedule at that time. Now that I am training fulltime, I hope to be able to make an Olympic final. It’s a different caliber and it would be the pinnacle of my track and field career. I’ve learned so much this year and hope to continue to improve,” Brooks stated.