Whoever said that one person couldn’t change the world, probably never met Dawn Harper Nelson, the professional track athlete who represented the United States of America, in both Beijing and London as significant member of Team USA. If you are among those fortunate enough to have met her, then chances are you know exactly what I mean. Truly, she can light the world up with her smile.
This week I had the wonderful opportunity to do a telephone interview with Dawn for the ‘Women in History’ project here at, Double G Sports. Lucky for me, I had already met Dawn when she graced the ‘Red Carpet’ at the annual gala event honoring women in sports, hosted by the Women’s Sports Foundation, in New York City late last year.
Before I share Dawn’s words, let me share just a few of my own that I believe best describes this amazing athlete, who has been noted in Sports Illustrated as one of fittest. Dawn Harper Nelson is beautiful. She has a positivity and confidence that is infectious and contagious. What make Dawn so beautiful, in my opinion are her essence, her being and her wonderful personality that is humble, human, and captivating. She is happy.
Just who is Dawn Harper Nelson and why was she chosen to be among the significant women for this ‘Women in History’ project? Dawn is a Nike sponsored professional athlete. She grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois. Her bio on her site at www.dawnharpernelson.com illustrates her accomplishments including the USA Championships, and International Championships. The main event listed on her site, 100 m Hurdles.
Dawn is more than just a professional athlete though. She is a role model. What follows next is a Q&A, which will help you to get to know a little bit about Dawn.
MSX~ what is it like to be at the Olympics and represent the United States of America?
DHN~ how can I describe it? Let’s see, you know how some people use the term surreal. It truly is that. It’s almost unbelievable. For me, I just remember thinking there I was this little girl growing up in East St. Louis, and I thought back then I want to be at the Olympics, and there I was. I was actually there. I just remember thinking, “God, I am actually here and I thought God must have thought I could handle being there, and all that goes with it.”
MSX~ what do you mean by that. What goes with it?
DHN~ well there’s a lot that goes with it. You must take it seriously. It’s an honor to represent the United States of America, and to me it means you are always going to be looked upon to be an excellent example. You cannot deviate from that. You must remember to shine at all times, and be representing your country in a manner that you can see yourself and know that you are doing all you can to represent the country with honor.
MSX~ so you believe that professional athletes should be role models.
DHN~ There are some people who might not think so, but yes I believe that it is very important that professional athletes do their best to maintain composure and remember they are always in the spotlight. That does not mean that anyone needs to be perfect, because none of us are. Yet, it is important to accept that you are different, and you are being looked up to. You agree to that.
DHN [cont’d]~ I also think that it is important to recognize other professions. For example, my husband is a teacher. He’s a role model, too. He is there in the High School, and he is influencing young lives. We are all given different gifts and I think it is important to use them to be positive and influence others. Everyone, regardless of their profession, is capable of being a positive role model but professional athletes sign on for that. I take that very seriously.
It can be tough though because these days there are cameras everywhere and you need to be careful. It’s as though I’m always thinking about what I’m about to say, because anything you say can be taken out of context.
DHN~ I was in Edgemont Elementary School, and my favorite time was gym and recess. I would say to the boys, ‘Just give me the ball,’ whenever we played two-hand touch. I liked Double-Dutch and stuff, but I would always be going home with my sneakers torn up.
MSX~ you seem very competitive in a positive way. Are you?
DHN~ yes, I’m very competitive. My poor husband can never just go bowling; there is always some sort of stake involved.
MSX~ when you were a child, and still today who would be among the women you would consider the most influential in your life?
DHN~ this answer may not be the one people doing interviews expect but I am going to say for me it is my mom. My mom was a huge influence on me and she was always saying that she wanted to do what was best for her girls. Every choice she made, she would say, ‘is this what’s best for the girls.’
MSX~ what do you think is an issue that is facing women in sports today that you might want to change if you could?
DHN~ I think that women are just as talented as men are and that we have the same dreams. It seems that they are belittled at times when it comes to promotion. This is something that should be viewed by seeing that the proof is in the pudding. We are talented and we are doing great things so I would want that to be shared. If we could take the gender out of it, that might be wonderful. Perhaps we should just focus on pure talent.
MSX~ for this interview, I have been told to ask three questions that are in alignment with the ‘Women In History’ theme. They include the following:
~What is your favorite sports movie?
~Which three people, alive or dead, would you most want to have dinner with?
~What would you want your legacy as an athlete, and a female to be?
DHN~ my favorite sports movie is ‘Coach Carter’ because I think it’s a movie that shows that no matter where you are from you can achieve great things if you don’t give up on your dreams. I did that, and I think it’s great for others to know that and believe it can happen.
Three people I would like to have dinner with include Kevin Hart, Tyler Perry, and Taraji Penda Henson. [At this point, Dawn laughed a bit about how she needed more than three invitations because and her list included Jamie Foxx, Oprah and others. She was very reluctant to choose only three, but rules are rules, so she ultimately agreed to leave Oprah off the list. I joked with her about how I was sure that Oprah was planning to interview her soon, and as soon as Oprah finds out she was excused from the table, well who knows what might happen now.]
My legacy would probably be that I am an example that nothing is impossible. It is important to me to demonstrate that if you work hard every day and strive toward your goals and dreams and you will never look back without any regret.
It was my pleasure to share this time with Dawn Harper Nelson. She is a joy. For those who are interested in her athletic accomplishments you can visit http://www.dawnharpernelson.com
You will see her official bio, highlights, news & events, photos and perhaps most importantly, ‘Dawn’s Words’
It was an honor and privilege for me to conduct this interview, of one of the women I have been fortunate to meet. She is a true role model, and someone I am grateful to for representing Team USA with honor and grace.
Michelle’s education includes a master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University, and completion of core courses working toward PhD in Public Policy Administration/ Law.Her dissertation was put on hold after Hurricane Sandy impacted her life, and caused her to take a bit of a detour.The rest is still unwritten . . .