Suzy Powell-Roos has thrown the discus since she was 10.
Thousands of tosses and three trips to the Olympics later, she tiptoes toward retirement like a kid who gently tests the water of an ice-cold lake.
Is it too cold? Or is it just right? Can I handle it?
Powell-Roos, 35, can handle anything. It's just something about closing the door that brings pause to the best of athletes. The lifelong Modestan has poured too much of herself into this endeavor to just walk away without a backward glance.
"At the moment, it seems like I'm finished," she admitted last month. "Certainly, I'm moving on in my life with other interests. Throwing will not be a focal part of my life for the next four years. But truth be told, I don't know."
Minutes after she failed to qualify for the USA Olympic team in June, Powell-Roos admitted it would be her final appearance at the Trials. The moment was bittersweet. She had placed third, yet did not advance more on that later but the graduate of Downey High and UCLA still understood the moment's gravity.
"I feel very honored and blessed to have had the opportunity to test myself in this arena for so many years," she said. "I'm disappointed that I didn't make the team. I am grateful that I got this opportunity to even compete today."
There's always been a certain grace about Powell-Roos both inside and outside the discus ring. Whether she was winning national titles or barely falling short, she always carried herself with pride and confidence. It wasn't unusual for her to shake hands and issue a personal thank-you to every official after a competition.
Powell-Roos qualified for the Olympics in 1996, 2000 and '08. Her national titles came in '06 and '07. She was one of the most decorated athletes in the history of Downey High, thanks to her three state CIF titles.
Track & Field News named her the High School Athlete of the Year in 1994. Remarkably, her national high school record throw in 1994 held for 15 years.
Powell-Roos, 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, always spotted her opponents mass quantities of size and strength. She overcame those disadvantages with speed, technique and competitive fight.
Still, she couldn't afford an off-day. She couldn't simply muscle the discus when it didn't feel right and get away with it.
She placed second at the nationals six times. Worse, Powell-Roos was star-crossed during important times in her career.
She broke the 16-year-old American record with a spin of 67.67 meters (222 feet) in 2007. Fact is, she threw farther five years before.
Powell-Roos launched one 69.44 (227-10) at La Jolla in April of 2002, the longest throw in the world since 1999. It was recognized as the U.S. record for more than a year until USA Track & Field officials failed to ratify the mark due to the slightly downhill-tilting sector.
Later, surveyors told Powell-Roos that she gained only about six inches due to the irregularity. What it meant, looking back, was that she technically held the American record for about a decade (until April of this year).
"I think at the time it was the longest throw in history by a clean woman," she said.
She referred indirectly to Gabriele Reinsch of East Germany, who set the existing world record of 76.80 (251-11«) in 1988. Suspicions remain about that record and others set during the 1980s by athletes from the old Soviet eastern bloc.
Saturday's women's discus finals at the Olympics amounted to an aftershock from the event's unsavory past. Gold medalist Sandra Perkovic of Croatia (226-7) and runner-up Darya Pishchalnikova of Russia both were connected to steroids years ago. Galt's Stephanie Brown Trafton, the surprise gold medalist in 2008, placed eighth (206-7).
Today's American throwers, among them Powell-Roos and Trafton, believe one of their greatest contributions is performing devoid of steroids. The marks may not be as long, but they're real.
As Powell-Roos said years ago, "I have to look at myself in the mirror."
Erasing that 2002 record kicked off a series of misfortune for the Modestan. In 2004, she was favored until an ill-timed injury just before the Trials cost her a trip to Athens.
More injuries hampered her campaign after the 2008 Games until her try this year for one closing Olympic journey. Then came more buzzard's luck at the Trials in Eugene, Ore.
Though Powell-Roos placed third, she failed to hit the Olympic qualifying standard of 203-5. Granted, she had a year to reach that distance. The final Olympic berth eventually went to Gia Lewis-Smallwood, who was sixth at the Trials but hit the Olympic standard earlier in the year in the tradewinds of Maui.
Powell-Roos remains conflicted about that result.
"I own that (not hitting the mark) but what happened to the Trials and having to be the best on that day?" she said. "I felt I did my job at the Trials. No one can take that away from me."
Earlier, she decided not to attend the competition at Maui, where she had set her U.S. record in 2007. The 6-4, 225-pound Trafton broke Powell-Roos' record by three inches this year at Maui and Lewis-Smallwood surpassed the mark that eventually punched her ticket to the Olympics.
"If I could only jump into a time machine ..." Powell-Roos said.
If that was the final chapter of her career, she'll live with it. She beat tall odds almost from start to finish.
"I'm tremendously proud of her for what she's done and how she's conducted herself," said Tim Roos, Suzy's husband for the past eight years. "This year wasn't meant to be. It's one of those mysteries. But for someone her size, she is amazing."
A theory: Powell-Roos can't officially call it a career because of Amy Acuff, a fellow UCLA Bruin and one of her best friends. Acuff quit training, had a baby, then qualified for her fifth Olympics.
So Powell-Roos leaves all options open. She has said she's been "slightly delusional" for dedicating 25 years of her life to the discus. But chasing Olympic-sized dreams requires such a commitment, right?
To her pleasant surprise, she was recognized by kids during a recent camp in Ohio. They had seen her throw via Internet video.
"I never appreciated the influence I had on the sport," she said.
A recap of the athletic achievements of Suzy Powell-Roos
Three-time Olympian (1996, 2000, 2008)
American record holder for five years (2007-12)
Two-time national champion (1996, 2007)
Three-time national junior champion (1993-95)
Three-time CIF state champion (1992-94)
1994 High School Athlete of the Year (Named by Track & Field News)