Tearful Dawn Harper-Nelson reflects at last USATF Outdoor Champs

Leave a comment

Dawn Harper-Nelson knew for months that these USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships would be her last. All that time to prepare could not keep the tears from flowing.

The 2008 Olympic champion and 2012 silver medalist in the 100m hurdles bid farewell in an emotional interview after placing fifth in Des Moines on Saturday.

“I’m really just blessed by my career,” Harper-Nelson told Lewis Johnson on NBC. “Everything’s just kind of coming at me, like, ooh, I didn’t do as good as I wanted [in the final]. But then, I’ve had such an amazing career. I can’t be upset about what God has given me, the talent. Then the field in the U.S. is just sick. Hearing people call my name, it’s like, I made an impact. And that’s really what you want in the sport. I’m blessed to be here.”

Harper-Nelson announced in April that she would retire after this season. She competed at nationals for the 14th and last time (has four U.S. titles) and will end her career with races in Europe later this summer.

She broke through in 2008, taking Olympic gold despite being third at trials and making the Olympic team by .007 of a second. She clocked personal bests in both of her Olympic finals, taking second in 2012 behind Australian Sally Pearson.

Though Harper-Nelson missed the 2016 Olympic team in perhaps the deepest event in U.S. track and field, she bounced back to earn a surprise silver at the 2017 Worlds.

“Honestly, I’m ready for some babies,” said Harper-Nelson, who married Alonzo Nelson five years ago.

She joked that she would have to be dragged off the blue Drake Stadium track and said one regret would have been never holding the world record. But her medal record and reputation as a consistent, big-event competitor were unmatched in her U.S. hurdling generation.

“I want them to say [10 years down the line] that when Dawn went to the line, my money’s on her,” Harper-Nelson told media in Des Moines. “They just knew that I was a fierce competitor. … I got the job done.”

VIDEO: Men’s hurdles final decided by .002

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Leanne Smith leads U.S. gold medalists at para swim worlds

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Leanne Smith has never competed at a Paralympics. Came into this week’s world championships with zero world medals. But she leaves London with three individual golds, most for any American, one year before the Tokyo Games.

Smith, 21, won the 150m individual medley, 50m breaststroke and 100m freestyle in her classification, all in American record times. The last two titles came on the final day of the seven-day meet on Sunday.

Smith, diagnosed with a rare neurological muscle disease called dystonia in January 2012, began swimming in 2013. By 2017, she broke a world record and then debuted at the world championships with a best individual finish of sixth.

The U.S. finished with 35 total medals and 14 golds, ranking sixth in the overall standings. Ukraine, usually strong at the Paralympics, led the way with 55 medals. Full results are here.

Jessica Long, the second-most-decorated U.S. Paralympian in history with 23 medals, earned six this week — five silvers and a bronze — to give her 52 career world championships medals.

Two-time Paralympian Mallory Weggemann earned two golds this week, giving her 15 world titles in three appearances (her others being in 2009 and 2010).

She won 50m titles in the butterfly and freestyle. Weggemann won a 2012 Paralympic 50m free title but was fortunate just to make it back for Rio after a 2014 accident that she said was harder to come back from than her teenage paralysis. She left Rio with no medals but a resolve to return for a third Games in Tokyo.

“I’m two seconds away from bursting into tears,” Weggemann said after winning the first of her two golds in the 50m fly, according to U.S. Paralympics. “I had a really rough go these past three years since Rio, so to finally be back after busting my butt to be here, and to be here in London of all places, is absolutely incredible.”

Fellow Rio Paralympians McKenzie Coan and Robert Griswold added two golds a piece.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Five storylines to watch for Tokyo Paralympics

Heimana Reynolds wins skateboard world title, nears an Olympic goal from age 10

Getty Images
Leave a comment

In February 2009, a 10-year-old Heimana Reynolds was profiled by his local NBC TV station on Oahu.

“My goal is to become a professional skateboarder and compete in the X Games and the Olympics,” he said, according to the report.

Skateboarding would not be added to the Olympics for another seven years. But here Reynolds is, age 21, having just won the world title in park, one of two skateboarding events that debut at the Games in Tokyo.

Reynolds, who wasn’t named to the four-man U.S. national team in March, consolidated his lead in the Olympic qualification rankings by prevailing over a pair of Brazilians in Sao Paulo on Sunday.

A shirtless Reynolds scored 88 points in the final, beating Luis Francisco (85.50) and Pedro Quintas (85).

No more than three Americans can make the Olympic team in the event, which will make it difficult if three-time Olympic halfpipe snowboarding champion Shaun White decides to continue his skateboarding pursuit. White was the sixth-best American, bowing out in the semifinals in 13th place on Saturday in just his second contest since returning to competitive skating last year.

Back to Reynolds. He grew up on the North Shore and attended the Punahou School, where Barack Obama is the most famous alum. His first name is Tahitian, reportedly referring to the power of Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Reynolds, the son of a surfer, proved a natural on land. After pre-teen media profiles, he blossomed into a world silver medalist last year. He won an Olympic qualifier in China in July to take the top spot in the Olympic rankings despite a best career X Games finish of sixth.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Chloe Kim details tough Princeton transition