Olympic sprinter Aleia Hobbs’ life changed in the NICU


So far in 2023, Aleia Hobbs became the second-fastest 60m sprinter in history and has gone undefeated in indoor and outdoor track races, becoming one of the women to watch ahead of August’s world championships and the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Hobbs, an Olympic 4x100m relay silver medalist in Tokyo, discussed her goals for Paris, the U.S. women’s 100m picture and her deep Louisiana roots. The New Orleans native and former LSU standout also details the phone call that changed her life and her experience being a new mom after adopting son Amir last June,

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Olympic Talk: How did you get your start in track and field?

Aleia Hobbs: It all started with me running from a dog. I was getting out of a church van, and someone said there was a dog. Everyone else got back in the van, and I took off running. I don’t even remember what kind of dog it was. I just saw that it had four legs, and I didn’t like it, so I took off running. After that, everyone was coming up to me and telling me I was fast. I was a kid, so I didn’t think much of it. A couple of days later, one of the booster moms came to my house and asked me if I wanted to run track.

My very first race, I was just gone. Every race after that I was just running, beating everybody. I’ve been running ever since then.

Do you remember when you first fell in love with the sport?

Hobbs: The first time I got on the track. I did AAU track when I was 9. I remember winning all of the Junior Olympic races and having all of these records at 11 and 12. I do have a different style. I had a big mohawk, an afro and braids when I was younger, and people would always remember me. At meets, people of all ages — kids and adults — would come up to me and ask for pictures and autographs, and that made a big difference.

You turned pro in 2018. Did you ever imagine as a kid that this would be your life? When did becoming a professional athlete become a dream for you?

Hobbs: No. I didn’t think that at first. I was just running to run. High school is when it really hit. I started knowing what things were and realizing how fast I actually was. I didn’t have a plan to go pro or anything at that time. My goal was to get to college. I got that done, and it was when I was in college that I realized I could go pro.

My freshman year of college, I ran 11.13 (seconds for the 100m, ranking third in the world among U20 women). I was seeing pros around me because we had a pro group at LSU, but it didn’t really hit me until I ran 10.85 my junior year (ranking fifth in the world among all ages). I had (microfracture) knee surgery after my freshman year. My sophomore year I didn’t run that fast at all, so I wasn’t really thinking about that. It was after that 10.85 that I knew if I really locked in and did what I needed to do, it could happen. Going into my senior year, I had a whole different mindset. I knew how the game went and how important consistency was. I didn’t lose a 100m race at all my senior year.

Fast forward to the the Tokyo Olympic Trials. What exactly happened with the the false start in the semifinals? Before you even walked off the track, the tears were flowing.

Hobbs: I was having a great season that year. I was consistently running 10.9, so I knew going into that race I was ready. It was my first Olympic Trials because I’d had knee surgery. I felt like everything I did that year — the consistent times — went down the drain. That was my very first thought, and once I had that thought, that’s when the tears came.

You were able to run the final under protest. How many minutes before the race did you find out? What do you remember thinking before and after the race?

Hobbs: I sat there and cried for I don’t know how long, then I finally went to the back and got my stuff. I sat there and cried for 10 minutes, then one of my teammates came and got me. I found my coach and agent, and they were telling me to keep on warming up because they were going to protest. I was trying to stay warm and jog, but I was crying hard. I felt like I could barely move my body.

Mentally I was trying to stay in it because I knew there was a possibility (that I could run), but it was hard because I knew what happened. All the tears were draining my body. I kept asking my coach and agent if they heard anything, and they said no. The final was about to start, and they told me to just come to the call room, where I was just sitting and waiting. The officials walked all of the other athletes out to the track, and at that point I started crying again because I was thinking, if they still haven’t called my name, I’m not running.

I’m sitting in the call room by myself, and then about two to three minutes after the officials went to the track, they told me I could run. I jumped up, put my shoes on and ran onto the track. I didn’t have a bib because after I got disqualified I ripped it off. They ended up finding me one and using a paper holder to pin it on me.

At this point, everyone is standing in the blocks ready to run. My nerves were getting bad, and I was trying to calm down and get into that racing mindset. When I ran onto the track, everybody started cheering, but it was hard. I finished seventh. I was so upset, but I was happy that I was able to actually run despite all of that. I knew I didn’t run what I could have ran.

Editor’s Note: The top six in the 100m usually make the Olympic team for the 4x100m relay pool. Hobbs was upgraded to sixth after original winner Sha’Carri Richardson was disqualified after testing positive for marijuana. Hobbs got on the Olympic team for the relay.

Walk me through your experience in Tokyo.

Hobbs: When I got the Team USA kit, I was like, “Wow, I’m really on the team!” It was different because of COVID. Everybody that had been to an Olympics before told me that it wasn’t the full experience.

The Olympic Games-Tokyo 2020

How special was that 4x100m silver medal?

Hobbs: When we stepped on the track, I was just looking around. There was no one in the crowd, but I was like, wow, this is literally the biggest race of my life. To be a part of that and contribute to the team was a blessing. It was great to get that round done and let them finish it in the final.

(Editor’s Note: Hobbs ran in the preliminary heats, then was replaced for the Olympic final by one of the higher-finishing sprinters from trials.)

What would having the opportunity to represent the U.S. at your second Olympic Games mean to you, and what will be different?

Hobbs: Paris will be different because it won’t be a COVID year, and I will be prepared. I was prepared (in Tokyo), but how it happened was just different. This time, we’re going to get some things done in the 100m (individually) and for the relay, too.

Can you talk about what it’s like being a Black woman on the world stage?

Hobbs: I love that fact I get to represent. I get a lot of hateful comments and messages from people calling me transgender, and that bothers me a lot. Especially since now I’m running faster. A lot of people are seeing me for the first time and are saying, “That’s a man. That’s not a Black woman.” Mentally that messes with me, but I try to put that to the side. I’m going to still do what I do and hold it down for the Black women.

Recommended Reading: Hobbs recently spoke with Olympics.com on her experience with social media abuse and body-shaming. Click here for more, and for more on how transphobia can disproportionately impact athletes of color of all gender identities, visit GLAAD and Athlete Ally.

Thank you for sharing that. Switching gears, tell me about your time at LSU. 

Hobbs: It’s home. It’s family. I knew I wanted to go to LSU literally all my life. I didn’t even go on an official visit. We have our state meets at LSU every year, so after one of those meets I stayed on Saturday night, did a visit on Sunday and that was it. That was all I needed. I had a good freshman year. I made nationals (and finished sixth in the NCAA 100m). I had knee surgery after. My junior year, I ran a PR of 10.85. Senior year, I won NCAAs in the 60m, 100m and 4x100m relay. I went to USAs and won, then I had knee surgery again.

2018 NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Outdoor Track & Field Championship

How hard was it to recover from those knee surgeries mentally and physically?

Hobbs: It was really, really hard. The first one — my left one — it was bothering me for years. After my junior year, it stopped, but then it started hurting again. When we finally got it pain-free, the right one started bothering me. I think it was at my first Diamond League pro race when I first started feeling the pain. I had to get another (microfracture) knee surgery for the same exact thing.

It was very hard to deal with mentally, but I always tell myself to never lose faith. You’re going to run into road bumps, but how are you going to get around it? I’ve dealt with adversity since I was young, so that’s made me stronger. After my first knee surgery, there were times I thought I would never run fast ever again, but I didn’t let that stop me.

Going back to Louisiana, you’ve lived there for most of your life. How special is that place to you?

Hobbs: Not too many people come out of there, sports-wise. There’s so much adversity. The fact that I was able to do it is good because I know a lot of little kids are looking up to me. Just the fact that I could actually show them it’s possible.

You were 9 years old when Hurricane Katrina hit. How were you and your family impacted?

Hobbs: My family and I had to pack up our stuff and get on a bus that drove us to a shelter in Mississippi. I remember feeling scared and confused. That was the first big hurricane that I experienced where we had to actually leave. The shelter was packed with people. We slept on cots with not a lot of space separating us from other families. It was bad. There were fights. … Our house didn’t get messed up too bad, but when we finally got home, our house didn’t have electricity for a couple of days. I lived on west bank. so we didn’t get as much damage as everyone else did.

You became a mom last summer. Tell me about the phone call that changed your life.

Hobbs: My son was born June 15th, 2022, so the call came on June 16th. Someone that my girlfriend’s mom knew had a baby. She couldn’t take care of him, so she had him and left him in the hospital. His name was “Baby Boy.” (My girlfriend’s mom) said, “He’s in the hospital by himself. Do you guys want him?” We decided to talk about it and see, but it was an instant yes. He was in there by himself — a newborn baby that came two months early — so he was in the NICU. We were all for it. We would go to the hospital every day and go see him. They had COVID protocols, so at times it was hard to get in and out, but shortly after that phone call we were getting the ball rolling to get him into our custody. We had to be foster parents first, and then it was the adoption process.

Were you and your partner actively looking to adopt at that time?

Hobbs: We did plan on it, but we didn’t think it was going to happen the way it did. I like that it happened this way because we got the blessing just in a different form.

Can you describe what it was like meeting Amir for the first time?

Hobbs: Awww, he was so small, oh my goodness. He was in the (NICU incubator). They had sent us pictures before, but actually getting to see him, I remember thinking, “Wow, you’re my son? You’re actually my son.” The first time I held him I was scared. He had these wires on him still, so I didn’t want to accidently pull a wire, but I just held him and sat completely still. I held him for at least an hour, not moving at all, just holding him and looking at him. I felt instant unconditional love.

What has Amir taught you, and what lessons do you hope to teach him?

Hobbs: Patience. He’s taught me a lot of patience. He’s taught me about strength. There were days where I’d be tired. He was sick, too, for a while. For at least a month, he had RSV and was feeling horrible. That’s my child, so I did everything I had to do to take care him.

What do you wish people knew about the foster care and adoption process?

Hobbs: It’s actually a process, but it’s definitely worth it. I didn’t even know, but there’s so many kids who actually need homes. I’m all for it. I’m probably going to adopt more, honestly.

How many kids do you want?

Hobbs: That’s a good question. I kind of want a lot. Maybe about four.

You have a close relationship with former LSU teammate Mikiah Brisco. Can you tell me about that?

Hobbs: Mikiah and I have been running with and against each other since we were maybe 12 or 13 years old. We’re both from Louisiana. If she has a bad race, I’m there for her. If I have a bad race, she’s there for me. We were able to fix each other’s weaknesses.

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Iga Swiatek wins third French Open title, fourth Grand Slam, but this final was not easy


Iga Swiatek won her third French Open title and her fourth Grand Slam overall, pushed to a third set in a major final for the first time.

Swiatek, a 22-year-old Pole, outlasted unseeded Czech Karolina Muchova 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 on Saturday at Roland Garros. Muchova tested Swiatek, the only singles player in the Open Era to win their first seven major final sets. She became the first player to take a set off Swiatek in the tournament.

Swiatek looked en route to another major final sweep, up 3-0 in the second set. She then committed 11 unforced errors (versus four winners) over the rest of the set as Muchova rallied back (with 10 winners versus 11 unforced errors).

Muchova then won the first eight points of the third set. Swiatek, under the most pressure of her career on the sport’s biggest stages, passed the test. The players exchanged breaks of serve, and Muchova had another break point for a chance to serve for the championship, but Swiatek fended her off.

“After so many ups and downs, I kind of stopped thinking about the score,” Swiatek said. “I wanted to use my intuition more because I knew that I can play a little bit better if I’m going to get a little bit more loosened up.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

No woman lower than the 14th seed has beaten both world Nos. 1 and 2 at a Grand Slam since the WTA rankings began in 1975. Muchova, ranked 43rd, nearly pulled it off.

“The feeling is a little bitter because I felt it was very close,” she said. “But overall, I mean, to call myself Grand Slam finalist, it’s amazing achievement.”

The French Open finishes Sunday with the men’s final. Novak Djokovic faces Casper Ruud, eyeing a 23rd major title to break his tie with Rafael Nadal for the men’s singles record. NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock air live coverage at 9 a.m. ET.

Go back to the fall 2020 French Open. Swiatek, a 54th-ranked teen, won the tournament without dropping a set for her first tour-level title.

Since, she climbed to the top of the rankings (and has stayed there for 62 weeks running), tied the longest WTA win streak in 32 years (37 matches in a row in 2022) and won majors on clay and hard courts.

She beat challengers from different categories in major finals: a Slam champ (Sofia Kenin), a teen phenom (Coco Gauff), an emerged rival (Ons Jabeur) and now an unseeded (because of injuries)-but-dangerous veteran in Muchova. Swiatek is the youngest woman to reach four major titles since Serena Williams in 2002.

Yet this French Open began with talk of a Big Three in women’s tennis rather than singular dominance. Since last year’s French Open, Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka and Russian-born Kazakh Elena Rybakina both won their first major and beat Swiatek multiple times.

Swiatek faced neither in Paris but still called it “a pretty stressful tournament,” noting a right thing injury that forced her to retire during her last match before the tournament.

Sabalenka was stunned by Muchova in Thursday’s semifinals, the erratic serving and nerves of her past reappearing. Rybakina had to withdraw earlier in the tournament due to illness.

Next up: the grass court season and Wimbledon, where Swiatek hasn’t made it past the fourth round in three tries. She did win the 2018 junior title at the All England Club. but Sabalenka and Rybakina have had more recent success there.

If Swiatek can lift the Venus Rosewater Dish, she will be an Australian Open shy of a career Grand Slam. Her chances of adding an Olympic gold medal to that collection are very high, given Roland Garros hosts tennis at the 2024 Paris Games.

“I’m not setting these crazy records or goals for myself,” she said. “I know that keeping it cool is the best way to do it for me.”

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Novak Djokovic into French Open final with records at stake after beating Carlos Alcaraz


Novak Djokovic heads into Sunday’s French Open final with all sorts of history at stake after eliminating a cramping Carlos Alcaraz in a showdown semifinal.

Djokovic faces Casper Ruud, eyeing a 23rd major title to break his tie with Rafael Nadal for the men’s singles record. NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock air live coverage at 9 a.m. ET.

On Friday, Djokovic took out the top seed Alcaraz 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1, but the match was even when Alcaraz began showing signs of right leg cramping. The 20-year-old Spaniard attributed it to the “tension” of the match, saying he was nervous for his first time facing Djokovic at a major.

“I have never felt something like I did today,” he said, adding that it was full-body cramps. “If someone says that he get into the court with no nerves playing against Novak, he lies.”

Alcaraz stopped play at 1-all in the third set and had trouble walking. He forfeited the next game, stipulated by the rules for receiving medical treatment for severe muscle cramping when not at a change of ends or end of a set.

Djokovic then won the next nine games. Alcaraz played with limited mobility and without the charismatic magic that’s charmed the tennis world.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

“First and foremost, I have to say tough luck for Carlos. I feel for him. I feel sorry,” Djokovic said to begin an on-court interview. “I told him at the net he knows how young he is. He’s got plenty of time ahead of him, so he’s going to win this tournament, I’m sure, many, many times.”

Djokovic was told of Alcaraz’s reasoning for the cramps.

“I have experienced that several times,” he said. “Early in my career I was struggling quite a bit physically. I can understand the emotions and circumstances that affect you mentally and emotionally.”

The semi was billed as perhaps the greatest inter-generational match in men’s tennis history, the first time that Alcaraz played a member of the Big Three at a major.

Their 16-year age gap was the largest to take place for men this deep in a major since the 1991 U.S. Open (Jim Courier d. Jimmy Connors) and the largest age gap for any major match between Slam champs since 2006 Wimbledon (Rafael Nadal d. Andre Agassi).

Unlike Friday, most of the previous torch-passing meetings took place when one man was not yet at his peak or the other was past his prime.

Typically, the younger player wins these types of duels. Djokovic, by prevailing over a foe 16 years younger this late in a major, broke the Open Era men’s age gap record of 14-plus years set by Roger Federer, who beat Hyeon Chung at the 2018 Australian Open.

Now, Djokovic heads to Sunday’s final as an overwhelming favorite against the Norwegian Ruud, a 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 winner over German Alexander Zverev in the later semifinal. Ruud was runner-up to Nadal at last year’s French Open and runner-up to Alcaraz at last year’s U.S. Open.

Djokovic can become the first man to win all four majors at least three times. He can break Nadal’s record as the oldest French Open singles champion.

“I’ve been very fortunate that most of the matches in tournaments I’ve played in the last few years, there is history on the line,” he said. “The motivation is very high, as you can imagine.”

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