Deanna Price has put American hammer throwing on the map in 2018. But the national record holder knows it’s about more than just throwing far.

Before every competition, Deanna Price asks herself: "Why am I doing this? What's the purpose? And who am I doing it for?"

If she can't answer those three questions, then, she says, it will be time for her to retire. So far, though, the answers have guided her to unprecedented success for American women in the hammer throw – a national record and a world-leading mark in June.

"If the purpose is ever for money or to keep surviving in the sport, then it's time to go. My purpose right now is to be able to give back to people who have given so much to me," Price tells SPIKES. "Who I am doing it for is to impact female athletes and let them know that you can be any shape and size and still be strong and beautiful. You get the best of both worlds being the athlete and the girl."

That strength has been on full display with a series of breakthroughs this summer. On June 2, the 25-year-old broke the American record with a toss of 77.65m in Rathdrum, Idaho. Just six days later, fellow Southern Illinois Carbondale alum and longtime rival Gwendolyn Berry broke the record with a mark of 77.78m in Chorzow, Poland. When the two athletes met head-to-head at the US outdoor championships, Price unleashed a crowd-erupting 78.12m effort, over five meters further than Berry. With the title-winning throw, Price regained the American record-holder crown and became the No. 4 hammer thrower all-time. 

Deanna Price at the 2016 Olympics (Getty Images)

Even with her recent success, Price maintains that she doesn't have specific season goals. All this Olympian wants is to have meaningful answers to her questions. Her goal of inspiring other female athletes has led her to speaking engagements at grade schools around the country. Her talks aim to empower and inspire young athletes with a message in body positivity. 

"I've been every size. I've been small, I've been large, I've been extra large. I've weighed 145 pounds, I've weighed 265 pounds, and now I'm 225. I've been at every range of the spectrum," Price says.

"Society has a way of making you feel that there's still something wrong with what you have versus embracing it. But you can definitely see that mold being broken by just loving who you are. I want to further that and let people know that it doesn't matter where you come from or who you are or what you have done as long as you can look in the mirror and be happy with what you see." 

As a professional athlete, Price approaches her body as a vehicle to improve in her sport, which is why she made the difficult decision to lose 45 pounds in-between the 2017 and 2018 seasons. 

In August 2017, Price weighed 265 pounds and threw a season's best of 74.91m, but she felt that she wasn't moving fast enough in the ring. When she finished third at the 2017 national championship behind Berry and Maggie Ewen, she realised her body’s size wasn’t allowing her to perform up to her full potential. With the assistance of her coach and fiancé J.C. Lambert, Price developed a healthy strategy to lose the weight and maintain her strength. With one cheat meal a week, an increase of cardio workouts, and healthier meal substitutes in her diet, the weight came off.

Deanna Price competes in the 2015 Beijing World Championships (Getty Images)

"I'm actually stronger than I was when I was 265 pounds. The balls have been going well and staying connected and that's what kicked everything off. It was realising that there was a problem and that my body needed to be at a certain weight for what I do.

"If you're 265 pounds and you're throwing the best you've ever thrown, you stay right there. If you throw the best at 175, you stay there. You just have to figure out how your body works. That's what I had to feel out, and I throw my best at 225-230," she explains. 

With the exception of a runner-up finish at the Millrose Games in February and a sub-par performance at the Athletics World Cup in London, Price hasn't lost a competition this year. In addition to her American record and outdoor national title, she earned a personal best of 24.51m in the weight throw on her way to winning the US indoor title. And her mark, which sees her only narrowly behind world record-holder Anita Wlodarczyk of Poland in the global rankings this year, is finally putting the USA in contention with some of the best hammer throwers in the world.

With the season far from over yet, Price hints at another breakthrough in the near future. "I know that when I'm about to hit a new level, my hands start tearing up – and I'm excited to announce that my hands are now starting to tear up," she says.

Beyond the medals and the accolades, though, lies a message in body positivity that Price aims to share. She knows that message is more important than any record: "When you accept yourself, it's amazing how many doors open because confidence radiates.” 

Words: Taylor Dutch