Like different coaches, the new recruit will watch carefully from the sidelines, shouting directions as Harper-Nelson, a gold medalist at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, undertakes sprints and velocity drills; the solely distinction is that this coach additionally occurs to be her one-year-old daughter, who hasn’t solely grasped what is going on on.

Whether she’s at the observe or in the gymnasium, her daughter, Harper, is usually shut by.

“It’s funny the things she catches on to,” Harper-Nelson provides. “She’s playing with her toys that we bring out, you’re not realizing how much she’s really absorbing everything around her. She does a countdown: ‘Three, two, one, go!’ And she’ll start running on her own.”

Harper-Nelson, who additionally received a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics on prime of her gold in Beijing, introduced her retirement from athletics in 2018, saying at the time that she wanted to start a family.
Harper-Nelson celebrates winning gold at the 2008 Olympics.Harper-Nelson celebrates winning gold at the 2008 Olympics.

But after stepping away from the sport, the considered returning stored operating by way of her thoughts.

“I thought about it constantly — that I still love to compete,” she says. “I felt my body was still capable … and I was thinking: ‘I don’t want my daughter to think that mommy had to give up on her other dreams for me.'”

Early on in her profession, Harper-Nelson, 36, admits that her major focus was all the time athletics; it by no means occurred to her that she could possibly be a mother and an athlete at the identical time.

“Throughout my career, I feel like there have been other opportunities, like TV things where I turned them down because I’m like: no, my focus is the Olympics, it’s the Olympic year,” she says.

“Now having a daughter, it is more on my plate than any TV show or anything could have added.

“I’d have it no different means — I really like the stress and strain that I placed on myself … I see her little face and see her smile and I’d do all of it once more.”

Harper-Nelson has returned to hurdles having previously announced her retirement. Harper-Nelson has returned to hurdles having previously announced her retirement.

‘My life, my decision’

As she continues her preparation for the Olympic trials in June, and perhaps also the Olympics in Tokyo a month beyond that, Harper-Nelson hopes to inspire other moms not to give up on their sporting dreams.

She singles out Serena Williams as her own source of inspiration — the 23-time grand slam winner having returned to tennis after the birth of her daughter, Olympia.

In terms of track and field athletes at this year’s Games, Harper-Nelson could have company from fellow moms Allyson Felix, the most decorated athlete in US track and field history aiming to compete at her fifth straight Olympics, and Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 100m.

With her return to the hurdles, Harper-Nelson explains how she wants to defy the mindset that says “you do not have it after you have got a toddler, bodily,” and “you simply want to settle for it, moms. You have a mother bod now.”

“We can do it if we select,” she says. “It is my life. It is my determination. And so for me, I simply really feel like this go spherical (the Olympics) means a lot extra.”

Allyson Felix is aiming to compete at her fifth Olympics.Allyson Felix is aiming to compete at her fifth Olympics.
Ahead of Tokyo 2020, Harper-Nelson has acquired sponsorship from &Mother, a US-based nonprofit organization that seeks to break down barriers that prevent women from being both an athlete and a mom.
&Mother was co-founded by seven-time US nationwide champion and 2012 Olympian Alysia Montaño, who, in addition to Felix, has been critical of the way mothers — and aspiring mothers — are treated within the sport.

Montaño told the New York Times in 2019 that Nike had said it would pause her contract if she wanted to have a baby, the fallout from which prompted the apparel company to expand its protection for pregnant athletes to ensure they won’t be “adversely impacted financially for being pregnant” for 18 months, six months longer than its previous policy.

Last month, &Mother announced a partnership with Cadenshae, an activewear company for pregnant and breastfeeding moms that is assisting athletes like Harper-Nelson with training, travel, family support and sportswear as they prepare for the Olympic trials.

“After my terrible experiences, I’ve been on a mission to discover firms who will again and showcase the ‘complete particular person,’ not simply the athlete,” says Montaño.

“We want different manufacturers, different firms to sponsor feminine skilled athletes for his or her complete profession … not simply the occasions that finest serve them.”

‘If I lose or have a bad day, they don’t really care’

Another athlete who has been backed by &Mother in the run-up to Tokyo is Sara Vaughn, an American middle-distance runner competing in the 1500m.

As well as being an elite runner, Vaughn is also a mother of four and a full-time real estate agent based in Boulder County, Colorado; adaptability is a key component of her training schedule.

“I do block out time for my operating, I deal with it as another assembly and I attempt to block out time,” Vaughn tells NCS Sport, adding that her current schedule is a 60/40 split between real estate and running.

“But in our actual property market and simply the nature of my job, typically issues change actually shortly, or additionally the nature of getting 4 youngsters. Stuff simply modifications.

“I’m fortunate that my husband is my coach and he usually can foresee those things and make adjustments on the fly. There was a day a couple of weeks ago where I planned a workout at 10 a.m. and actually didn’t get it done until 4:30 that afternoon.”

Sara Vaughn competes at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London. Sara Vaughn competes at the 2017 World Athletics Championships in London.

Vaughn, 34, has by no means skilled the transition of changing into knowledgeable athlete and a mother in the identical means as Harper-Nelson. She’s been a great runner so long as she’s been a mother, and all through her profession, Vaughn’s youngsters have been ready to present a way of perspective.

“When I walk in the door from a race or a workout, no matter how it went, my kids couldn’t care less if it went great,” she says.

“The only time they really cared is if they get to go on a trip, like when I got to take them to London a couple of years ago for the world champs; that was exciting to them.

“But if I lose or if I’ve a nasty day, they do not actually care about that both. It’s simply again into the regular routine.”

Core stability

When Vaughn competed at the 2017 world championships, her third child, Cassidy, was a year old. Four years on, Vaughn is again trying to qualify for Team USA with a one-year-old after the birth of her fourth child, Davey. She knows better than most what it’s like to return to elite sport after childbirth.

“I’ve discovered over 4 pregnancies that every is completely different,” says Vaughn.

“You simply have to actually be in tune along with your body and what feels snug and what you are prepared for. I’ve discovered that, this time round, it took me longer to get again into form — and that is okay.

“Even if you feel ready for something, your body might not be structurally ready for it … mak(ing) sure my core is stable, my hips are ready, and my muscles are ready to handle sprinting around the track before I actually tackle those workouts.”

Vaughn races at the 2016 Olympic trials.Vaughn races at the 2016 Olympic trials.

The want to be affected person when getting back from childbirth is one thing Harper-Nelson found the onerous means. As she took off for her first dash a month and a half after giving delivery to her daughter, she remembers how “loose and fluid” her body felt.

“It was such a shock because I am a student of my body and I did not expect that, I had never felt that before. And I started crying. I was like: what is this? I can’t go fast, it’s over,” she says

“That was really an eye-opener to realize my body is different and I need to be a student of this new body.”

Last month, it was introduced that no overseas fans would be able to travel to Tokyo for the Games, which start on July 23.

That means each Harper-Nelson and Vaughn are unlikely to have their youngsters in the stands have been they to qualify.

But their journeys could possibly be important for the thousands and thousands of individuals watching at dwelling. The sight of a mom competing at the Olympics would little question encourage quite a few of different girls round the world to dream to do the identical.


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