EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of HERO Sports' series profiling some of the top collegiate athletes in America — athletes who could earn Olympic medals this summer in Brazil. These are the names we think American sports fans will know well by this fall. Last week we talked to Georgia swimmer Chase Kalisz. This week we talk to Texas A&M standout hurdler Shamier Little, who posted three of the world's top five times in the 400-meter hurdles last year.
When Shamier Little gets out of the blocks in her signature event, the 400-meter hurdles, you can’t miss her. She’s the one wearing a clip-on hair bow. She has one in her favorite color of neon green/yellow, and another in Aggie Maroon—to match her Texas A&M uniform.
She isn’t wearing the hair-bow to be flashy, only so her mom can make out which hurdler is her daughter during the online webcasts of her races. Of course, Little probably doesn’t need the colorful bows. When it comes to the 400 hurdles, she’s usually the one up front.
This summer, the soon-to-be 21-year-old would like to add a few more colors to her hair-bow repertoire. How about one with a mixture of red, white and blue? One to represent her new team? With the times Little has posted in the 400 hurdles the past couple of years, she'll need it.
“I do have some red and white bows but I’ve never had a chance to wear them,” Little told HERO Sports on Sunday, fresh off the plane ride back from the SEC Indoor Championships in Arkansas. “I just always wanted to make it easier for my mom to see me. If I were to make the team (Team USA) I would definitely wear those colors.”
Little is being humble. The U.S. Olympic Team trials will be held the first week of July in Eugene, Oregon and she already has blown away the ‘standard’ that gets you into the trials—56.95 seconds. Little consistently runs in the 53s—and the difference between 56.95 and Little’s top time of 53.74? A hurdling eternity.
Little owned three of the world’s fastest times in the 400 hurdles last year. While she’s not officially on the Olympic team yet because the trials haven’t been held yet, let’s face it—she’s an Olympian.
Yet her college head coach—track legend Pat Henry, who has led college programs to so many team national titles that he probably needs a couple of extra rooms for all the trophies—says you’d hardly know Little is destined for Olympic greatness.
“As soon as she got here, we figured out who she is—personality-wise she’s pretty humble about her abilities and does a good job of that,” Henry told HERO Sports. “She’s not a big talker. She’s got a really nice personality, smiles all the time. She’s just a very likeable young lady when you get the opportunity to talk to her. And when somebody sticks a microphone in her face, she handles it well. I can see how people could be attracted to her personality.”
Little doesn’t deny what her coach says. She just wasn’t built to be a jerk. She wasn't raised to beat her chest about her accomplishments—even when those accomplishments include her status as one of the best 400-meter hurdlers in a world that contains, oh … several billion people.
“I do take it all seriously, but there are people who are so arrogant about all of that,” Little said. “I call those people ‘track-heads.’ And I felt all along that I didn’t want to be a ‘track-head.’ I just want to be a normal person who loves to run. I don’t talk too much about myself, you have to hunt me down to get me to talk about myself.”
Little’s top competitor for Olympic gold—based on times—is 2012 London Olympics bronze medalist Zuzana Hejnova of the Czech Republic. Hejnova is 29 and a two-time Olympian, and she won the IAAF World Championships last summer, with Little taking the silver. Fellow American Cassandra Tate is pretty darned good, too.
“No, (a medal) wouldn’t surprise me,” said Henry, who has coached more than 100 future Olympians. “She’s very talented. “For a young person to get on the Olympic awards stand, it’s very difficult because you have several very rigorous rounds to go. You have to be seasoned and mature about who you are and what you are. I think she proved that this past summer at the world championships. She even had some issues there and won silver … There’s still a lot of room for her to improve, and that’s kind of hard to say when you’re talking about somebody who just won a silver.”
This summer, you won’t have to watch Little on a webcast. Bob Costas and his buddies at NBC will help make sure of that. You won’t have to squint looking for that neon or red, white and blue hair-bow, or her signature glasses (she feels unique about that, too). The cameras will be everywhere. Just look for the American running up front—possibly in the front.
But she swears … she has no plan to get a gold hair-bow, one to match the medal she hopes to earn in Rio. She says that will never happen.
“No, that’s like pushing it, and what happens if I don’t make this or I don’t do this or make this team,” Little said. “And I have a gold headband? I think that’s just too much.”
Red, white and blue will do.