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Track and field star Vashti Cunningham is one of the many Black female athletes traveling to Japan to take part in the Tokyo Olympics this weekend.
Cunningham says that despite being a little “anxious” she welcomes the pressure of participating on a global stage.
“It is just getting to a point of solitude before I go,” Vashti told Hollywoodlife.
This is not the high jumper’s first Olympics.
Cunningham made her Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio Olympics when she was just 18. At the time, she was the youngest track and field star to qualify for the games since 1980.
That same year, she won the USA Indoor Track and Field championships and a week later secured a medal at the World Indoor Championships.
“I’m definitely really excited and a little bit anxious, but more focused that I have ever been,” she said. “Focused on training, focused on mentally keeping myself in a good space and physically keeping my self healthy.”
For Cunningham, sports is in her blood.
She is the daughter of former NFL star quarterback Randall Cunningham ( jumped as high as 6’10” in high school) and the daughter of Felicity De Jager, a former ballerina with the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Her older brother Randall II is a two-time NCAA champion high jumper at USC.
“It kind of puts a good pressure on me,” she said. “I really like everyone around me to be on the same level and to elevate each other, so it is not just me accepting to be the only professional child in my family.” Vashti added, “It is more of a positive pressure: ‘I am boosting you and you are boosting me and we are going to keep motivating each other and be competitive with each other and pushing ourselves to the limits and seeing how God wants to bless us.'”
But Cunningham’s dreams do not begin and end with track and field.
“My biggest dream is to be a National Geographic photographer. I want people to know that; that is a dream of mine when I am done with the career God has blessed me with so far,” she told the publication.