The lifelong Olympic dream is exactly 400 meters away for Diamond Dixon—just once around the track for the final round of Olympic trials.
Dixon’s red Adidas dig into the blocks, waiting for the shot to start the race. The first three runners of the finals will go on to run the individual 400-meter event in London, while the top six will be entered into the relay pool of runners for the 4x400 relay team.
Never before has a female from the University of Kansas earned a spot on the U.S. Olympic team for a track event.
“It would mean everything,” Dixon said about making the Olympic team, “because I’ve worked so hard.”
The pistol fires, but Dixon is the slowest to react—according to USA track and field website results. After 200 meters she is still in the race, but slowly fading out of contention. She appears to be in danger of finishing in last place after 300 meters.
She fights to gain speed with just 100 meters left in the race. Her arms work furiously and her legs carry her across the finish. Her eyes search Hayward Field for her time, hoping to see a 50 next to her name: she has never run below 51 seconds.
“I was so sick of looking at that 51,” Dixon says. She still can’t find her time.
Reporters inform Dixon during the post-race interview that she finished fifth. Her time of 50.88 seconds is the fastest of her life. Her frustration fades away as excitement sets in.
“I accomplished one of my dreams today,” Dixon says, tears in her eyes as reporters cluster around. “Making the Olympic team.”
Dixon’s coach Stanley Redwine knew that the final round of trials would be a challenge, and that the Houston junior would need to fight, he says. The disappointment of failing to win an NCAA title still weighed heavily on her, she says, and some of her performances at trials were not what she wanted. But still Dixon found the strength in her to make the finals.
Redwine’s words before the race were not much different from those before most NCAA races. She could see it on his face though, and hear it in his voice. She needed to see past her weaker performances and get back to running like herself.
“My biggest word for her was to make sure she knew what her capabilities were,” Redwine says.
Knowing one’s capabilities can be difficult at this type of event, because every runner at the Olympic trials is talented. These are the fastest runners in the world, Dixon says.
The difference between winning and losing at this level is measured in tenths of a second. Speed can get a runner to this race, but the will to win is what determines those tenths of a second.
“It’s whatever heart that you have,” Dixon tells the media following the final.
For Dixon, having heart is a little more complex. She says that she will always have a little hole in hers—a piece taken by a mother and sister who abandoned her when she was still little.
She tried not to think about that growing up, but now she admits the loss fueled her. She filled the hole with her love of running.
“My heart is in it. I love track,” Dixon said to media after the race. “You just have to love what you're doing and want what you think you deserve. Nobody is less than anybody else out here.”
Everything Dixon does, she does with a purpose, according to Kansas sophomore hurdler Michael Stigler, who has become close friends with Dixon.
He says that off the track, Dixon is quiet, funny and just likes to chill. But there is no joking around when she is at practice or in the weight room. Stigler says he believes this hard working attitude is responsible for Dixon’s success.
“Her competitiveness is out of this world. She’s a fighter,” Stigler says. “She fights harder than anyone I know because she wants it.”
Dixon says that her own motivation to succeed in running came from her desire to achieve more in life than her mother who left her. She says she did not want to make the same mistakes, such as being a pregnant teenager who then had a child she could not provide for.
“That motivated me to stay in school and do what I’m supposed to do,” Dixon says. “And definitely be better than my mother. Everything that I’m doing, that fuels it a lot.”
Redwine, who has overseen Dixon’s career for the past two years, says that the runner has something that cannot be coached. Some athletes want it more than others, he says, and it is that something that Dixon has.
“That just comes from her inner will to achieve,” Redwine says.
“I’ll never be satisfied.” Dixon says. “Success is only what you’ve accomplished so far and what you will accomplish in the future.”
Living her dreams
A place on the Olympic team—that has been the prize Dixon has sought for as long as she has been running track, and her family knows that. After her race at the Olympic trials, Dixon’s phone rang. It was her sister.
She was calling from North Carolina to congratulate Diamond on her achievement. The two are still working to build the relationship they never had as kids. Diamond says there have been “glitches,” but that she was nevertheless happy to hear from her sister after the race.
The gaping hole left in Dixon’s heart when her mother left years ago will remain forever, but Dixon says she is thankful for the people who were there to help her through the rough times.
She says she finds her story “amazing.”
“I think I should write a book,” Dixon says with a laugh. She is quick to emphasize that this is only the beginning, and that new goals lie ahead.
Her next dream is always about 400 meters away.
“We’ll see if my legs can take me there,” she says.
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