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Dawn Harper celebratesDawn Harper is a Team USA track and field athlete who won the gold medal in the 100m hurdles at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, and the silver medal in the 100m hurdles at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Sweet as Your Grandma with a Sweet Potato Pie

September 14, 2012

 Dawn Harper
 Gathering with Team USA

The final part of my 2012 dream has come true! When I arrived in Washington, I found the USA desk where all athletes had to check in. I said my name and, before I could finish it, I heard a yell from behind.  The yell came from a fellow track and field athlete, Aries Merritt, who I adore and who’s had an amazing year.  He not only won a gold medal in the 110m hurdles at the Olympic Games, but he also set a world record a couple of weeks ago.  I knew that other athletes were soon to follow and I was bursting with excitement.

As I had thought, other athletes were close behind and, before I knew it, the USA desk was filled with friends and a lot of laughter.  Once we arrived at the hotel, we all received our really cute USA outfits to wear at the White House the next day.

We quickly changed clothes and rushed to dinner before it converted to the LIVE party they scheduled for us.  I was excited about going to dinner because I knew more of my fellow Olympians would be there. The neatest thing about walking through the doors of the dinner/party was the mixture of different sports that came together to represent the U.S. It was like one big family in the party room. We ate and danced the night away until they closed the doors. Heading back to the hotel was funny to me because I kept thinking, "In the morning I'm going to meet the president." The thought blew my mind!

The buses left for the White House bright and early. I figured that my bus driver really loved his job because he sang songs and talked the entire trip. Arriving to security was surreal. The athletes kept saying, "now this is real security." I also thought to myself that someone’s records had to be squeaky clean in order to get through these doors (LOL!).

Walking onto the actual White House lawn was amazing. There was a band to the left, food and drinks straight ahead, and the podium for the president to the right. You see the podium all the time on TV, but to think I was going to sit right behind the president was mind-blowing. When the president was ready to come out, they had everyone take their place.  Athletes sat next to other athletes in their sport, so, of course, I sat with the track & field group.

President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, came out as they often do, with smiles and handshakes. However, this time was different because I was in the crowd. I shook their hands and waited for their wonderful speech. Their words spoke volumes to me because I could relate to everything they were saying. We were thanked for our hard work and dedication and he even made a reference about Tyson Gay.  Once the photo shoot began, I was lucky enough to shake the president’s hand twice and take plenty of pictures with him. His cool, calm and collectiveness are real! He was as sweet and genuine as your grandma with a sweet potato pie.

Once the handshakes and pictures were all taken, we were informed that we could take a tour of the White House. As I walked the halls and rooms, I felt that the atmosphere was filled with history. Seeing things that were in the White House since 1816, seeing the blue room, and seeing the dining hall was an honor. I took plenty of pictures and left with a bigger sense of appreciation for the people who work in the White House.  I thank President Barack Obama and the White House staff for welcoming and catering to us. I hope they enjoyed the day as much as we did. Still Smiling!

“The Three Musketeers” – Me, My Medal and the President

September 13, 2012

Going to the Olympics has always been a childhood dream of mine, and I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to have represented my country in not one but two Olympics. The thought of going to the White House and meeting the president just takes this 2012 Olympic experience and season to another level for me. At the beginning of the year I remember saying, “when I make this team, I will take this opportunity to meet the President.” I wasn’t able to go in 2008 because of track meets that I had previously committed to; however, I promised myself I would never miss out on what seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity again.

I remember making sacrifices and adjustments early on to ensure that I reach my goal of making my second Olympic team. I used the White House and the President Obama as another motivation. The challenges throughout the year seemed to never end, but I was blessed to win the Olympic Trials, receive my medal, and start my real Road to London 2012. I went back to Los Angeles knowing I would be one of the U.S. Olympic members attending the White House but this time I wanted to bring a medal for President Obama to “awe over.”

I felt like I put my head down, got into my little bubble, did my work, and didn’t come out until it was my time to be on the big stage. The intensity going into the finals of the 100m hurdles in the London Games was very present, but I told myself, “I welcomed this challenge.” So I stuck to the game plan round by round so when crossing the line and just missing out on defending my title. After receiving my silver medal I considered it A JOB WELL DONE! I believed in my heart that my family, my country, and my President, Barack Obama, would be extremely proud. I’m excited about the idea of presenting my medal to President Obama and I will forever have the memory of “The Three Musketeers” – me, my medal and the President. I can’t wait to feel the presence of his calmness, belief, and strength that he brings to our country. I will walk into the White House with the feeling, “Oh my God I’m going to the White House!” and walk out of the White House with that feeling, “Oh my God I’ve been to the White House!” I have one more day until the final part of my 2012 dreams come true. I can’t wait!