LOS ANGELES >> The other day USC hurdler Amalie Iuel, the Pac-12’s premier multi-tasker, was recalling her first meeting with Trojans coach Caryl Smith Gilbert when she burst out laughing, shaking her head at the memory.
“It’s actually a funny story,” she said.
One of those tales that grows more amusing the further away it gets from the actual moment which at the time wasn’t funny at all.
Iuel, born in Denmark, raised in Norway with stops along the way in Namibia, Pakistan, Dubai and Thailand, was recruited to USC by then-coach Ron Allice. But by the time Iuel arrived on the USC campus in the summer of 2013, Allice had retired, replaced by Smith Gilbert, who had been at Central Florida.
Iuel spent much of her teenage years fighting for the world to give underprivileged and abused children a chance in life. Now she found herself in Smith Gilbert’s office asking for the same thing: just a chance to prove herself.
“She just looked at me like who are you?” Iuel said recalling the coach’s reaction.
Iuel has been busy this spring introducing herself to the rest of the track world, the two-time Pac-12 heptathlon champion emerging as the world class 400-meter hurdler she was always convinced she could be.
Iuel placed herself on the radar of every woman with Olympic or World Championships aspirations in the 400 hurdles when she blazed a then-world-leading 55.38 at LSU’s Battle of the Bayou April 8, a victory that like the rest of her season promised even bigger things to come. She is third on the NCAA season’s best list in the flat 400 at 51.80 and is a big reason the Trojans are favored to duplicate their collegiate record-setting NCAA Indoor 4×400 relay victory at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in June.
Iuel will compete in both events as well as the high jump in the 84th USC-UCLA dual meet at Loker Stadium on Sunday (11 a .m.).
“I think she’s capable of really anything this year. She can win NCAAs in the 400 hurdles,” said Trojans assistant Joanna Hayes, the 2004 Olympic 100 meter hurdles champion. “I’m looking for her to do really big things.”
Iuel is more circumspect, choosing to keep both her immediate and long term goals to herself. Her reticence comes from a refusal to both bear the burden of or be limited by public proclamations. She is shaped and driven to no small degree by lessons she learned as a teenager about human resiliency even in the face of the most dire circumstances.
“It made me more open minded as a person as well and accepting to new challenges,” she said of her family’s travels. “If (impoverished or abuse people) can still put a smile on their face and look presentable every day then who says when I have all these, so many opportunities to go out and get better and I have been really fortunate. So there’s no reason not to go out there and do it.”
Her father, Lars Christian Iuel, works for a global telecommunications company. When Amalie was 2 1/2 the family moved to Norway,…