July 2021

Olympic track and field through the eyes of an Olympian

Courtesy of NBC4
By Matthew Herchik
June 30, 2021

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — With Olympic eyes beginning to turn to the ever-popular track and field events that kicked off Thursday night, one central Ohio leader is looking ahead at what to expect through her own eyes as an Olympian.

“Right now, in my household and in my office, it’s all things Olympics,” admits Stephanie Hightower, who says that she still feels the same passion for the Olympics each time they hit center stage. “I’ve been wearing my gear and watching all of the extraordinary performances, and now just getting really antsy for track and field to start.”

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An Ohio State graduate, Hightower qualified for the Olympics more than four decades ago as a U.S. Hurdler.

Hightower though never got the chance to compete because the United States boycotted the 1980 games in Russia.

The fastest woman in the nation, Hightower failed to qualify again in 1984.

“The bad race at the wrong time,” Hightower said at the time.

But Hightower knows first-hand the blood, sweat, and tears athletes pour into this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“I think people should not lose sight that these are still young people that have this amount of pressure. Mentally exhausting and physically exhausting the training that has gone into this,” describes Hightower, who now serves as the President and CEO of the Columbus Urban League.

Hightower also served as the president of USA Track & Field for 8 years.

With four female track & field Buckeyes competing in Tokyo, she hopes to see scarlet & gray turn to gold.

“I’m really excited to be able to say, ‘Go Bucks’ when they either start the finish line, or when they get in the shot-put ring, or when they get ready to jump,” Hightower says.

But Hightower also has her eyes on possible demonstrations from athletes hoping to bring attention to the arena of social justice.

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“If our young people are that passionate about their beliefs as it relates to social justice, and if that just happens to be the platform for them to be able to recognize that, that’s part of our democracy in this country,” Hightower encourages.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee has decided they will not take action against athletes for protests or demonstrations at the games.

The IOC however upheld their ruling in April that athletes can be punished for political demonstrations.

“I really don’t know what the IOC is going to do,” Hightower admits when asked if she thinks action will be taken if there are protests. “If I’m standing on that podium, the IOC is not going to be able to take my medal away from me and I’m sure that’s probably what they’re thinking.”

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