Hurdling into History
IN A SPLIT SECOND—TWO-HUNDREDTHS OF A SECOND, TO BE EXACT—KRISTI CASTLIN MADE BOTH OLYMPIC HISTORY AND VIRGINIA TECH HISTORY.
Castlin won a bronze medal in the women’s 100-meter hurdles at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games held in Rio de Janeiro, sweeping the event along with U.S. teammates Brianna Rollins, who took the gold, and Nia Ali, who won the silver. The sweep—the first time in Olympic history that one country has owned the 100-meter hurdles—was made possible by Castlin’s lean across the finish line, which USA Today deemed “incredible.”
Castlin also became the first female Virginia Tech graduate to medal at the Olympics and the first Hokie to claim an Olympic medal since former men’s basketball standout Vernell “Bimbo” Coles took a bronze in 1988, two years before graduating with a degree in housing, interior design, and management.
Since returning from Rio, Castlin has been traveling at high speed. She received recognition in her home city of Atlanta, participated in tennis star Serena Williams’ fashion show during New York Fashion Week, accepted an invitation to join the gun-control coalition of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and made appearances on national television. “It definitely feels good,” Castlin says. “I’m happy to be a medalist, and I’m excited about the future.”
In September, Castlin visited Virginia Tech, where she earned her political science degree in 2010, to watch the Hokies’ football game against Boston College. During the first quarter, the athletics department led the crowd in recognizing her Olympic honor.
Castlin is accustomed to hearing crowds cheer. In 2007, she became the first Tech female athlete to win an Atlantic Coast Conference championship in a hurdles event. She graduated with seven All-America honors from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the most by a female athlete in Virginia Tech history. She also helped the university earn a reputation as a competitive track and field school.
Castlin hopes to make the U.S. Olympic Team in 2020. “I’m training for next year’s World Championships in London,” she says. “Then, four years from now, I want to be on the Olympic team for Tokyo. After that, I see myself competing for one more year.”
After she clears her last competitive hurdle, Castlin will consider a range of options, including international affairs, modeling, consulting, and social work. In the meantime, she’ll be traveling many places. Fast, of course. It’s the only way she knows.