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.
You’re fresh off of the Mt. Sac Relays. How did it go?
It was ok. I don’t like to lose. I’m a competitor, so if I don’t come in the top three I’m like why did I come here. I came back and broke down the race and how my training has been. I haven’t been able to do as much speed work as we would like because I have been dealing with a hip flexor issue. So it was a good weekend, all things considered, but by my standards, I could have stayed home for that.
How do you bounce back from personally disappointing performances like this past weekend?
The first thing we always say is that in sports you have to have short-term memory. The second thing that I always remember is that there’s a lesson in everything. Every failure and success, there’s something you can learn from it. So I take the moment to figure out 1) what went wrong, 2) how can I fix it or 3) was it just a bad day. Then when I step on the line for the next one, I don’t even let myself remember the race before.
The mind is so powerful. If you step on the line with a negative mindset, I’m willing to be that your performance is not going to be what you would like it to be. So after a loss you have to be in the moment and take the lesson away from that moment. Give yourself the time to feel the emotions you are going to feel and honor your emotions. But when it’s time to come up out of those feels; let those emotions go.
So what are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned from losing and winning?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned from losing is that it’s not the fact that you lose, it’s how you lose and how you bounce back from that loss. In 2012, I missed making the Olympic team, and at that point I thought about quitting, going back to school and finding a more traditional career. But somehow I found the strength and gusto to give it another go. I took it day-by-day. In doing that, I went from not making the team to, a year later, being US Champion and qualifying for the World Championship. I learned to put the losses in perspective, to take my L’s just as well as I take my W’s.
The greatest lesson I’ve learned from winning is that it’s never too late. I would be categorized as a late bloomer. When I was very young and through college I was expected to be the next great thing in the 400m. Somewhere along the way, things got tough. I got off track and I wasn’t performing at the level I was expected to perform. So I had those moments where I thought about giving up. But now, I’m performing at a world-class level, at 30, a time when people have counted me out. I have proven to myself and to the world that it’s not too late. I always tell people that you shouldn’t let your circumstances, your age or what someone tells you limit you. So there might be some things that I don’t achieve until I’m 40, but if I just keep plugging away, I know I’ll get there.
You’ve been plugging away for a long time. What kind of changes have you seen for women in sports over the span of your career?
I’ve pretty much been an athlete my entire life. I use Venus and Serena as my gauge because they’re my peers. But I have watched them almost single-handedly change the game. I was privileged in that I came up in that time where I watched them do what they do and also been inspired by them. They wore their hair and outfits differently and really inspired us all to be ourselves when we play.
We’re also moving into a space where we’re recognizing more women in sports and I think a lot of that has to do with more women being in executive positions and giving us more of a voice. To grow our voice we have to take charge. Sometimes we speak about the way we’re portrayed on TV. When I look at who’s behind the camera, it’s always men, so they tell our stories from their perspective. We have to move into those positions where we’re the camerawomen, the journalists, the executives who are making those decisions about how it’s going to play out, how our stories will be told.
I think you’re doing a great job of telling your own story with your use of social media. What do you want girls and women to know when they see you?
That I’m no different than them. One of the things I’ve been talking about a lot lately is body image. When I was a teenager I had body image issues because I felt like my breasts weren’t developed enough and I didn’t have any hips. Now I’m realizing that my friends were going through the same thing. Some were self-conscious about having developed too much breast or hips. We were all dealing with the same thing. Now, even at 30, despite working out everyday and constantly getting compliments on my body, I still look in the mirror and see things I’m not happy with. So I’m no different than any other woman. It pushes against the notion that we have to compete against each other. We should be trying to build each other up. I go the same things they go through. I’m a human being.
You’re obviously inspired to do great things. Who are some of the women who inspire you?
I always start off with my mom. I don’t tell her enough how proud of her I am. I have watched her go through a divorce and raise my younger brother and me. There’s nothing in this world that we couldn’t call her for and she wouldn’t find a way to make it happen.
Adrienne Lofton, at Under Armour is also an inspiration. She helped usher me at Under Armor in 2011 and I’ve watched her passion for female athletes and her job. I’ve watched her climb the corporate ladder with purpose and in such a short amount of time she’s really running things.
The grace and professionalism with which Natasha has handled disappointments has defined her career and made her into a champion. Her vision for herself and for women in sports and her motivation to have it all will ensure that she remains a champion off the field. Click here to read the rest of our conversation with Natasha and learn about her plans for the future and why she refuses on race without her makeup.
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