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'I felt my body was still capable': Meet the moms hoping to shine at the Olympics

April 7, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 24.6%. 2 min read.

during day nine of the 16th IAAF World Athletics Championships London 2017 at The London Stadium on August 12, 2017 in London, United Kingdom.

With Team USA's Olympic trials around the corner, 100-meter hurdler Dawn Harper-Nelson has enlisted the help of a new assistant coach -- although not the kind you might expect.

Like other coaches, the new recruit will watch closely from the sidelines, shouting instructions as Harper-Nelson, a gold medalist at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, undertakes sprints and speed drills; the only difference is that this coach also happens to be her one-year-old daughter, who hasn't entirely grasped what's going on.

Harper-Nelson, who also won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics on top of her gold in Beijing, announced her retirement from athletics in 2018, saying at the time that she wanted to start a family.

Early on in her career, Harper-Nelson, 36, admits that her primary focus was always athletics; it never occurred to her that she could be a mom and an athlete at the same 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.

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.

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 don't have it after you have a child, physically," and "you just need to accept it, moms.

Ahead of Tokyo 2020, Harper-Nelson has received 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.

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.

Vaughn, 34, has never experienced the transition of becoming a professional athlete and a mom in the same way as Harper-Nelson.

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