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Hastings uses South Carolina as springboard to Olympics

175 days ago
SEC Network
Photo: ESPN/Bill Frakes

South Carolina (one gold medal in Rio)

Sprinter Natasha Hastings has said that she remembers first wanting to compete in the Olympics when she was 10 years old. And it wasn't very long after that when she remembers first wanting to run fast for the South Carolina Gamecocks.

You see, she always envisioned success at South Carolina under Coach Curtis Frye equating to eventual gold on the larger Olympic stage - which it first did for Hastings in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and then repeated itself eight years later in Rio.

"I knew I wanted to be a Gamecock probably my freshman or sophomore year of high school," Hastings told gamecocksonline.com in 2016. "I chose the program because I saw the success that Coach Frye had with his quarter milers, and the success his quarter milers had in their post-collegiate careers. I knew I would be able to perform in college and also not get burned out when it was time to go to the next level."

After setting all kinds of records and earning All-America honors at South Carolina, Hastings earned her first Olympic gold medal at the age of 22 as a member of Team USA's 4x400m Relay team in Beijing. She then experienced heartbreak when, four years later, she missed the cut for a chance to run in the 4x400m Relay again by one spot, failing to make the 2012 Olympic team.

"In 2012, I couldn't even watch the games," she told gamecocksonline.com. "It was that hard for me to accept that I didn't make the team."

That made her 2016 accomplishment all the sweeter. To even make the U.S. squad, Hastings had to overcome a hamstring injury she suffered one month before the Olympic trials. Then 30 years old, she earned a second gold medal -- again as a member of Team USA's 4x400m Relay team.

Now 34, Hastings had her sights on competing in a third Olympics this summer in Tokyo before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. She told cnbc.com that becoming a mother after the Rio Games not only did not deter her in her training, but actually motivated her instead.

Although the Tokyo Games were postponed until at least next summer, don't count her out.

"We bring life into this world and still do a ton of other things," she said. "I'm still a badass woman, and I can do anything I set my mind to."