Lashinda Demus balances caring for twins and training
As part of USA TODAY Sports’ ‘100 Olympic hopefuls in 100 Days’ series, prospective U.S. Olympians give their thoughts on the Games in their own words.
Lashinda Demus wins the women’s 400-meter hurdle semifinal in 53.82 seconds during the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
As a hurdler, Lashinda Demus has an appreciation for precise timing — calculating the number of steps between hurdles, when to take off, when to sacrifice speed for technique.
But sometimes the timing’s off.
Her first Olympic berth, in 2004, was a surprise. She wasn’t ready for the podium, failing to reach the final in Athens.
In 2008 she was. But Demus, an Olympic medal contender in the 400-meter hurdles, was thrown for a loop when she found she was pregnant in 2006. She gave birth to twin boys in June 2007, a year before the U.S. Olympic track and field trials. After a difficult pregnancy, where she suffered from pre-partum depression and through five months of bed rest, she followed an intense regimen to return to form, only to place fourth in the trials and miss making the team by 0.14 seconds.
Now 29, Demus returned from South Carolina to her native California to be coached by her mother, Yolanda Rich, a college runner. Demus hopes the timing’s finally right. She’s the reigning world champion with husband Jamel Mayrant and two sons in tow.
The pieces seem to be falling in place. The only hurdles she sees are on the track in front of her.
It’s a lot of pressure to make the team. A lot of people look at me and say, ‘You know, you’re a shoo-in.’ A lot of the shoo-ins, things happen and they don’t make the team. The first thing is making the team. When you get there, then you can have fun. So winning a medal is the goal, but I think the hardest part … is making the team.
I would say it is not fair and it is fair. Our sport is such a wide range of athletes. If you constantly pick who you think is going to be the best people to compete, nobody’s ever really going to get the chance … Just like me in 2004, if they would’ve chose who was the best, I don’t think they would’ve chose me that year. But I made the team, so it’s a love-and-hate thing.
You grow these relationships with the (drug) testers … They come to be extended family members. I’ve been having the same one for about three years. Before I moved from South Carolina, I had the same lady, she’d would come in my house, watch TV, she knew my dogs, she came when the twins were first born.
I think about it every day almost. I just have the vision of the perfect race, the number of steps I want to run between each hurdle, how I look coming down the home stretch. I never hear a noise really.
My mom was the first coach I had when I was a little girl so I’m kind of used to it. On the track I don’t look at her as a mom. She’s my coach, I know she knows what she’s doing, so it makes it easier for me to treat her like a coach. I don’t want to be treated as a daughter.
I like winning, I work hard, because I know what it takes. I want her to treat me how I treat my profession, which is with truth and honesty and with hard work.
A race strategy is more important than anything in running the 400 hurdles.
A guy was out there and he just set up some hurdles at practice one day and I just jumped over them without anyone telling me how to do it.
Hurdles help you concentrate on other things rather than pain. That’s why I liked it.
I come from a family of twins … My grandfather is a twin. His mother had four sets of twins, 20 kids total.
My pregnancy was hard. I was miserable nearly the whole time. The first four months I had morning sickness. My stomach was all the weight so I could barely walk, my feet were swollen. Everything was just horrible, two hours of sleep a night.
I was so tired of being pregnant, I just cried in the doctor’s office. I told the doctor just to take them out of me. He was like, ‘They’re only a pound each. I’m sure you don’t want them out.’ ‘Yes I do, you can fix them!’ That’s how crazy you are when you’re pregnant.
I didn’t expect I would be such a liberal mom. I am like a hippie mom, I want to say. I’m just open and so liberal, I want to talk to my little kids, I want them to talk to me about everything.
I’m not a person that plans stuff. I like to do things spontaneously. When I lived in South Carolina, ‘Let’s drive to Charleston Beach. Just, let’s go.’ Now you can’t do that. I really, really miss that. I’ve got to plan everything. What am I going to do with the kids, what time am I going to pick them up … I’m like, ‘I’ll sit here. Forget it.’
People are like, ‘Why would you tell yourself to slow down if you can run faster?’ Because the smoother you’re over the hurdles, the faster you’ll run.
My twins come along with me for the ride. I’m not leaving them there, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on their childhood, and they don’t miss out having a mother.
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