Heading into the longest, biggest and most important meet I had ever competed in, I was physically and mentally in the best shape of my life. I had never felt more prepared to run a race and since no one had any expectations from me, I felt absolutely no pressure.
There are countless people who have contributed to my athletic career in one way or another, but on July 3rd 2016, the day I made the Olympic team, 3 stood out. My coach, Tonja Buford-Bailey; one of the best athletic trainers I’ve ever worked with, Benny Vaughn; and my good friend, Emmanuel.
I woke up that morning extremely anxious. My race was more than 8 hours away and I couldn’t sit still, couldn’t eat, couldn’t think straight. I prayed that morning for the only thing I knew needed, peace of mind. I had the talent, I put in the work, I ran for my lane, so I deserved to be there.
As I walked around the outside of my hotel (probably looking slightly crazy,) with Kirk Franklin’s “Help Me Believe” blasting on repeat through my headphones, a phone call interrupted my music. From literally thousands of miles away, Emmanuel was calling to check on me. I no longer remember what he said or what we talked about, but I do remember feeling infinitely better when we got off the phone. I didn’t realize it right away, but that was God bringing me my peace of mind.
I warmed up for my race in my usual manner, nothing new on race day. Coached Bailey hovered in the background, giving me the space I needed, but right there if and when I needed her. That day, there was no more coaching to be done. She had given me everything I needed and in that moment all I needed was for her to be there, believing in me.
The semi-final and final of the women’s 100m dash were about an hour apart. I finished 2nd in my semi- final heat, I was in the final. I turned to Coach Bailey and asked her, “what do you want me to do?” She handed me off to Benny. Benny essentially did nothing, but at the same he did everything. 45 minutes later I walked away from him feeling completely relaxed, at ease, and ready to run the best rest of my life.
I stood in front of my starting blocks in my new Nike uniform, my black sunglasses and stared at the finish line. I ignored the biggest crowd I have ever run in front of and waited for those 3 very familiar commands. Runners take your mark. Set. Gunshot.
I saw my name come on the screen in 4th position. I saw the time next to it, 10.95 seconds, a new personal best. I heard Coach Bailey yelling my name, I was greeted with a hug from my friend, Olympic roommate and training partner, Ashley Spencer. I answered the questions of many reporters. I smiled for several pictures. I took the fairly long walk back to our “camp” but it still hadn’t hit me. I reached for my phone and ignored every missed phone call and text message except for one, my mom. She picked up the phone and said, “Morolake, we did it!”
And I started to cry.
It finally hit me,
I was an Olympian.