ATHENS — When Quintunya Chapman stripped off her Team USA jacket, the nationally-ranked heptathlete became a college student with a passion for public health.
Chapman lights up with excitement as she explains her involvement with HIV/AIDS awareness in Athens.
“I think it is really important, one, because Atlanta is so close, and that’s one of the closest places to Athens that has such a high HIV rate,” Chapman said. “It was really eye-opening for me.”
Chapman is a full-time student working to complete her degree in public health. She is spending the next year training for 2016 Olympic trials. Between her studies and workouts, she interns with AIDS Athens, a center for AIDS awareness, education and outreach, as an intern on the team coordinating the AIDS Walk on October 10.
“Our goal is $35,000 and to have at least 300 walkers join the walk,” Chapman said. “Hopefully people join and know that’s it’s for HIV awareness and not so much for the money part.”
Chapman got involved her sophomore year with UGA HEROs, a campus organization that “exists to provide quality-of-life care to kids infected or affected by HIV/AIDS,” according to the organization’s website. From there, Chapman was introduced by a professor to Olivia Long, the executive director of AIDS Athens. Long tasked Chapman with an internship, which has fostered her passion for public health.
As a dozen miniature-sized Georgia fans wandered through the shadow boxes of trophies on the third floor of Georgia’s Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, Chapman pointed out just how close to home her passion is.
“Like children that size over there, they don’t know what’s going on,” Chapman said. “You have kids from ages to 4-17 in HEROs. And they’re battling puberty they’re battling family problems, HIV, medication. They need an outlet. They need mentors.”
Chapman’s selflessness and need to nurture comes from her upbringing, specifically her mom’s influence.
“I have a lot of respect for that lady and the way that she raised (Chapman and her siblings),” track coach Petros Kyprianou said.
Chapman came to Georgia as a sprinter. During her sophomore year, Chapman nearly quit the track team because, of all things, she hated sprinting.
Kyprianou asked previous head coach Wayne Norton if he could train Chapman for multi-events instead of letting her quit track in total. After meeting some resistance, Kyprianou was able to develop Chapman into a nationally-ranked heptathlete, along with teammate Kendell Williams.
“She has decent speed for a heptathlete but not amazing speed for a sprinter, and she’s extremely powerful,” Kyprianou said. “When you have speed and power, it’s a little bit easier to adapt to a new technique.”
Chapman and Williams worked in tandem, with a friendly rivalry driving competition. They’ve now broken several records and brought home SEC and national titles. In the fall of her senior year, Chapman demolished a Spec Towns Track and school record, and later she went on to place third at NCAA Indoor Championships.
“She basically just started doing multi and is winning national championships and was ranked in the world at one point,” said Taylor Hollingsworth, a close friend. “She’s only been doing this for a couple years and she’s already accomplished so much more than these girls who have been doing it forever. For me, it’s like my mind is blown.”
Chapman and Williams are currently training together in Athens and both will compete at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., next July. Chapman’s coach says her points put her among the top five but only the top three make the Olympic team.
And while he has high hopes for her athletic career, his belief in her extends beyond whatever results she produces next summer.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know she’ll be extremely successful in whatever she decides to do,” Kyprianou said.