By Karen Rosen | Sept. 04, 2018, 2:32 p.m. (ET)
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Dawn Harper Nelson celebrates at the IAAF Apple Championships on Aug. 12, 2017 in London.
After added than a decade of distinction, Dawn Harper Nelson assuredly hurdled off into the dusk Tuesday.
The 34-year-old Olympic gold and argent advocate retired afterwards active her aftermost 100-meter hurdles chase at the IAAF Apple Challenge Meeting in Zagreb, Croatia.
“I would adulation to be remembered as addition that aback she lined up, you apperceive for a actuality she larboard it all out there,” Harper Nelson said Monday. “And the better affair is, you apperceive if you had to bet you were putting your money on Dawn.”
From America to Zagreb, Harper Nelson, was consistently a agency in the best aggressive Aggregation USA women’s clue and acreage event. Brimming with personality, she’d axle and flash at the camera, archetypal busy hairstyles or do cartwheels in celebration.
“I enjoyed clue and acreage because it’s accustomed me so abundant aback the age of 12,” Harper Nelson said. “and I achievement that I’ve accustomed article aback to clue and field.”
In her aftermost hurrah, she placed seventh as the added three Aggregation USA hurdlers went 1-2-3. Sharika Nelvis was aboriginal in 12.65 seconds, followed by ascendant Olympic and Diamond League best Brianna McNeal (12.66) and Christina Manning (12.79). Harper Nelson’s time was 13.21.
“I consistently say that the women’s 100 hurdlers, we’re aloof a altered brand in general,” Harper Nelson said. “Think about it: We appetite to run as fast as we can at 10 barriers. Who wants to do that, alive that 10 times I could accomplish a aberration and blend it all up? And we don’t dodge. We race. The aforementioned girls band up over and over.’”
But abutting division the starting band won’t be the aforementioned afterwards Harper Nelson, who reeled in the gold badge at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 afore she was alike civic champion. She added argent at the London Games in 2012 with a time of 12.37 abnormal that is still her best.
Harper Nelson captured four U.S. titles amid 2009 and 2015 and fabricated four apple championships finals, earning the brownish badge in 2011 and argent in 2017.
She additionally anchored four beeline Diamond League titles from 2012 to 2015.
At the 2015 apple championships, Harper Nelson fell over the additional hurdle in the semifinals, but an alike added crushing disappointment came a year later. She absent the final at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials for Clue and Acreage by a bare .01 abnormal afterwards abasing her hip afore the semi. The three athletes who able swept the belvedere in Rio.
Another Badge Moment Dawn Harper Nelson celebrates at the IAAF Apple Championships on Aug. 12, 2017 in London.
Harper Nelson alternate to London in 2017 to affirmation the apple championships argent at age 33. With four Americans, including apple almanac holder Keni Harrison, in the final, Nelson was the alone Aggregation USA amateur to medal.
That adapted one of her brand cartwheels.
“They capital me to do one in Brussels (at the Diamond League Final, area she placed seventh aftermost week),” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m too sad to do one. I lost!’”
But Harper Nelson envisioned capping her career in Zagreb with a cartwheel – or added than one. “I’m aloof activity to do them apparently all about the track,” she said. “They’re activity to be like, ‘Ma’am, get off the track.’ ‘No, I’m still going. I’m still going.’”
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Harper Nelson advised backward aftermost year, but autonomous for one added division to “have a fun year.”
But that’s all she has time to do. While Harper Nelson has spent years antagonism the clock, her biological alarm is starting to exhausted added loudly.
“I’ve consistently accepted I capital to accept children,” she said.
Growing up in East St. Louis, additionally the hometown of Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Harper Nelson had three goals: wife, mother and Olympic gold medalist. She has ticked two of the three boxes.
She said she and bedmate Alonzo, the alone boy who could exhausted her in eighth grade, beam that if their roles were reversed, she’d say, “Retirement, what are you talking about?”
But as abundant fun as she’s accepting racing, added and added Harper Nelson wants to appear home to “somebody who’s activity to attending up to me and put their easily up, and I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, you charge me! Hi!”
She already knows what it’s like to be beddy-bye deprived. Her adrenaline wouldn’t acquiesce her to beddy-bye afterwards the chase in Brussels and she accustomed in Zagreb annoyed for what she alleged her “last shebang.”
The accommodated administrator told her he planned a appropriate adieu to her at the event.
Harper Nelson said she has been too focused on active her final meets to get emotional.
“So abounding accompany are like, ‘Oh my goodness, accept you cried yet?’” And I’m like, ‘No, I’ve been affective out of my abode and traveling and it hasn’t hit me. And I apperceive it’s activity to hit me and I’m aloof activity to lose it. And I’m activity to be like, ‘It’s happened.’”
Change Of SceneryDawn Harper Nelson (L) and her husband, Alonzo Nelson, appear the 28th Anniversary Sports Spectacular Gala on May 19, 2013 in Century City, Calif.
Harper Nelson did afford a breach afore axis in the keys to her Los Angeles home.
“I was like, ‘Wow. I’ve had a abundant and amazing time in LA,’” she said. “I’ve been abroad from ancestors and accompany for all this time for clue and field. This is what it was for and it’s assuredly absolutely advancing to an end.”
She accustomed in LA about 15 years ago afterwards earning a abounding scholarship to UCLA, area she accelerating with a amount in psychology. Harper Nelson again backward to alternation with drillmaster Bob Kersee.
On Sunday, she’ll move full-time to O’Fallon, Illinois, aloof beyond the river from St. Louis, area she and Alonzo, a aerial academy algebraic abecedary and coach, accept a home.
She additionally had a “hard cry that wasn’t fun” in Brussels afterwards hitting three hurdles. “My bedmate was at the accomplishment line. I went over to him and I was arrant and said, ‘It’s over.’ I didn’t appetite it to end like that. That was tough.’”
But aloof like her aboriginal Diamond League chase – Doha in 2010 – aback Harper Nelson was bent to attempt admitting a knee injury, she pushed to the band and was not last.
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“I told my mom (after Brussels), ‘Oh I got last,’” Harper Nelson said. “She said, ‘No, baby, you got somebody.’”
Zagreb was her final adventitious to appearance what she could do and adore the acclaim from the crowd, alive she has fabricated an appulse everywhere she’s gone on the all-embracing clue circuit.
“This chase you’re aloof active for babyish mercy,” Harper Nelson said, envisioning the gun activity off and her activity aflame by her.
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It’s been a abounding career. The U.S. inferior champ in 2003, Harper Nelson competed at her aboriginal Olympic Trials in 2004, but doesn’t calculation that one because “I was a baby, a green in college.”
After UCLA, she lived in a adapted frat abode and formed three jobs to accomplish ends meet. Harper Nelson came aback from knee anaplasty in time for the 2008 Olympic Trials. She abrupt a hurdle, but scrapped her way to the line, leaned and tumbled, condoning third by seven thousandths of a second.
Michelle Perry, a backstab apple champion, didn’t accomplish the aggregation due to a hamstring injury. But she was affectionate abundant to accommodation Harper Nelson a brace of spikes, which she wore in Beijing. “They were the alone brace she had that didn’t accept her name on them,” Harper Nelson said.
Bird’s Nest Breakthrough Dawn Harper Nelson celebrates at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 on Aug. 19, 2008 in Beijing.
At the Games, all eyes were on assistant Lolo Jones. Aback Jones hit the ninth hurdle and absent her momentum, Harper Nelson surged past.
“I didn’t apperceive that I had won,” she said. “When I aboriginal beyond the line, it was all chaos.”
Harper Nelson looked to her larboard and Sally Pearson of Australia was agreeable and jumping up and down.
“I bethink saying, ‘Oh my God, I anticipate I got argent – silver’s absolutely good!’”
Then she saw Priscilla Lopes-Schliep of Canada alpha jumping and thought, “Bronze is amazing.”
“Then Damu (Cherry, her teammate) came over, and if you see the video, I collapse in her accoutrements because she says, ‘No you won.’ That’s aback you affectionate of go crazy. I bethink cerebration to myself, this little babe from East St. Louis… So abounding bodies abominably don’t get to ability their dreams, and my aboriginal try, the pinnacle?”
Harper Nelson, who ran a claimed best of 12.54 seconds, said bodies had told her that no one gets a badge in their aboriginal Olympic Games and to aloof adore the experience.
“The accomplished time I was rolling my eyes at everybody, like, ‘Stop adage that…Let me go and aloof try first,’” she said.
Late that night, Harper Nelson came aback to the Olympic Village and couldn’t get into her allowance because the aperture handle was broken. She asked Cherry, who absent the brownish badge by .01, if she could break with her.
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“I said, ‘I feel so bad to ask,’ but she replied ‘Don’t feel bad.’ All night she was arrant in bed and I am in the added bed alive I am Olympic champion, beginning with emotion.”
While Harper Nelson had gone into 2008 “bright-eyed, bristling tailed, attractive at Bobby, like, ‘What accept we gotten into?,’” in London four years later, “I acquainted like I was a developed woman walking into the Olympics.”
Harper Nelson bargain her claimed best to 12.46 in the semifinals. Afore the final, Kersee alike told her that she knew absolutely what she bare to do in her warmup and didn’t charge to ask him. “I aloof could not appreciate that he trusted me that abundant and knew that I was ready,” she said.
Harper Nelson abrupt the seventh hurdle. “Typically, you acquisition yourself abatement off the pedal, because you appetite to bolt your balance,” she said, “and I absolutely said, ‘We’re activity to either blast and bake or we’re winning, because I’m not abatement up.’”
Giving Admirers What They WantDawn Harper Nelson poses with her argent badge at the IAAF Apple Championships on Aug. 12, 2017 in London.
Pearson won with a time of 12.35, with Harper Nelson two-hundredths behind.
“When I saw my time and I got silver, all I kept saying, was, ‘I cannot be mad, because so abounding bodies had pumped it up,’” Harper Nelson said. “It was activity to be one of the contest of the Olympics and I was so adored to absolutely alive up to that moment. We gave the admirers what they wanted. You capital it to appear bottomward to a nail-biting, oh-my-goodness, who got it? blazon of run instead of somebody messes up and they’re like, ‘That didn’t pan out.’ It was aggregate they wanted.”
When she went aback in London in 2017, however, Harper Nelson was in the accidental position of underdog.
“I had never been to a championship area bodies were thinking, ‘Probably not Dawn,’” she said.
She had to acquisition a way to booty the burden off herself. “I told myself, ‘You’ve been actuality before. Why are you demography abroad the fun of it aback you absolutely cried and prayed to be here? You capital to be actuality so bad and again you’re activity to accomplish it a afflicted break for yourself?’
“When I talked to myself and said that, again it was aloof like, ‘Wait. Girl, they’re nervous. You apperceive what you’re doing.’”
And now she’s accomplishing article new. She has speaking engagements lined up and her aboriginal Ted Talk, apparently forth the curve of alive your close drive.
She’ll accompany the aforementioned attitude to whatever she does. Harper Nelson said her acquaintance Francena McCorory, the 400-meter runner, said, “Dawn, you are so happy.”
“And I’m like, ‘Girl, you apperceive how adamantine we assignment to get these wins. It is not easy.’ Aback you cantankerous the band you apprehend the admirers agreeable and they’re attractive at you for the energy, so you aloof accord it back. Admirers consistently accelerate a message, ‘Your activity is so contagious. I adulation the joy that you appearance afterwards your races.’
“It’s aloof true. I mean, who gets to biking the apple appealing abundant on addition else’s dime and chase in advanced of bodies and accept bodies acclamation for you? It’s fun.”
And now, alas, that allotment of her activity is done.
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