A CONVERSATION WITH NATASHA HASTINGS

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You see the bright lipstick and platinum blonde hair. You know about the Olympic gold medals and World Championship medals. It’s no doubt that she is a force in women’s sports. But are you seeing what she wants you to see and do you really know what keeps her going? In conjunction with SET Magazine, GladiatHers.com is bringing you an in-depth two-part conversation with the fiercely competitive, fiercely fashionable Natasha Hastings. Get to know the woman on and off the track and be inspired by her determination to win, even when she loses.

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GLADIATHERS & SUPERHEROES

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If you’re into Netflix like I am, there’s a really good chance that you’re captivated by one of its newest series, Luke Cage, or that you’ve already binged watched the entire first season.  Luke Cage, also known as Power Man, is a fictional superhero who appeared in comic books published by Marvel Comics.  If you don’t happen to follow comic books that closely, but watched Netflix’s other superhero series, Jessica Jones, then you’re already familiar with Cage.  If you aren’t familiar with the stories but intend to give them a watch, don’t worry; I won’t spoil the plots.  I’ll just say that both Luke Cage and Jessica Jones provide exciting, interesting stories.  And, probably most importantly, they show a woman and a person of color in roles as superheroes; stories that are, unfortunately, not frequently told.

Basking in the greatness that are Luke Cage and Jessica Jones led me to think about women in sports and the greatness they give us on a regular basis.  Day in and day out, female athletes perform feats that are nothing short of heroic.  They inspire others to be great, they bounce back from injuries, battle with archenemies and do awe-inspiring things with their bodies.  There’s no denying it, GladiatHers® are our real-life superheroes.  So today on GladiatHers.com we’re taking a look at a very short list of some GladiatHers® who live absolutely heroic lives. Continue reading

GENUINE PATRIOTISM

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If you read this blog with any sort of regularity, and by now you definitely should be, you know that I played sports for practically my entire childhood and until I graduated from college. I played tennis through college, ran track until I got to college and played soccer up until I got to high school. Last week, Megan Rapinoe, women from the Indiana Fever and Phoenix Mercury and other women in sports took knees during the National Anthem in protest of racial injustices in the United States. Watching these women and reading the comments sections (note to reader: never read the comments section) under articles about these women took me back to the days where my athletic prowess was on fleek. What dawned on me was that I don’t ever remember having the National Anthem played or flag raised at any of my events. Now maybe my 32-year-old mind is leaving out an occasional occurrence, but I can say with absolute certainty that it was nowhere near routine for the National Anthem to be played or flag to be acknowledged at the tennis matches, track meets or soccer games that I played in from my childhood to early adulthood.  But the way Americans have reacted to a handful of athletes kneeling for the Anthem suggests that reverence for Old Glory before sporting events is a time-honored, almost mandatory tradition.  So how was I robbed of such a large part of American culture for so long?

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JACKIE JOYNER-KERSEE: THE ATHLETE & THE ACTIVIST

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Not every athlete becomes legendary.  Not every athlete can say that they were one of the greatest in the world.  Not every athlete can say that they went beyond their sport and are true activists for change.  I know one who can, Jackie.  Joyner.  Kersee.  Not only is Jackie Joyner-Kersee track and field royalty but she is the quintessential activist athlete.  She was the first American to win gold in the long jump and the first woman to earn more than 7,000 points in the heptathlon. Her three gold, one silver and two bronze medals were earned over the span of four Olympic Games, but her determination to improve the lives of others has spanned over her entire lifetime.  Her Foundation, that has raised over $12 million, improves the lives of children and families in impoverished, often forgotten about East St. Louis.  And her latest endeavor is bringing technology to large groups of underserved people.  When you talk about athletes who use their platform to bring the change they want to see, Jackie Joyner-Kersee is in fact, one of the greats.

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AND IF YOU DON’T KNOW, NOW YA KNOW…

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The Olympics have come and gone.  I must say, aside from Ryan Lochte’s full-on frat bro display of stupidity and utter disrespect, I enjoyed what I saw.  I was unquestionably entertained and inspired.  I actually think that it’s the inspiration piece that really makes the Olympics so great.  Not only are athletes providing entertainment and bragging rights, but they’re using their lives’ work to inspire and teach millions of people.  That’s why we wait in anticipation and watch without flinching every four years; we want to be inspired and be taught to be better than we were yesterday.  Through the Olympics we learn about true perseverance, love, dedication and talent.  We learn just how much each athlete has to give up for the opportunity to represent their country, and we’re inspired to give a little more of ourselves.

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GLADIATHER WIVES: COURTNEY AJINÇA

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We all grow up with certain expectations in life. We have ideas about what careers we’ll have, who we’ll marry, how many kids we’ll have…what our adult lives will generally look like. On the road to adulthood and living our fairytale lives, however, there are often unexpected events that shift our focus and our expectations. Sometimes those shifts have us doing things we never thought we would and living lives that don’t match our original expectations. But very miraculously, those unexpected events place us exactly where we should be, doing exactly what we were designed to do. That’s pretty much the story of this month’s GladiatHer® Wives feature. If you asked Courtney Ajinça when she was sixteen what she’d be doing when she was twenty-eight, I doubt that she would have told you she’d be an event planner who balances life as an NBA wife and mother. But that’s where she is and it suits her in a might fine way. Don’t believe me, just take a peek.

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GLADIATHER CRUSH WEDNESDAY: KENDRA HARRISON

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Greatness often coincides with consistency.  We expect our greatest athletes to always be great; to always display excellence; to always be on.  But sometimes greatness is found, not in how well you perform, but in how well you get back up from those less than great performances; how well you stare adversity and failure in the face and refuse to back down.  Today’s GladiatHer Crush has given us both levels of greatness.  Over the past year and the span of her young career, Kendra Harrison has consistently been one of the world’s top hurdlers.  She owned 5 of the top 10 times this year in the 100m and had come gloriously close to the world record on multiple occasions.  So when the United States held its Olympic Trials in Oregon earlier this month, the thought of Harrison not making it to Rio didn’t cross many people’s minds.  For many, it was her time to go for gold.  But as fate would have it, Rio was not in the cards for Harrison.  In the finals of the Trials, she finished a disappointing 6th place.  6th place was three spots behind where she needed to place to qualify for the Olympic team and far cry from the greatness that was expected of Harrison. Continue reading