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Kristin Castlin shines in the Olympic Spotlight

Draped in the flag of the United States, Kristi Castlin took a victory lap around the track at Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro.

It was moments after the former Douglasville resident had made Olympic history with her two other hurdling teammates at the 2016 Rio Games.

The trio of Brianna Rollins, Nia Ali and Castlin had a sweep in the 100-meter hurdles for Team USA, becoming the first American teammates - in any women’s event in the history of Olympic track and field - to take all three medals.

While Rollins and Ali knew they would take a spot on the victory podium, Castlin had to wait 18 seconds before her place was confirmed; the time that it took the judges to rule whether she, or Britain’s Cindy Ofili, had crossed the line first in their photo finish.

Once the scoreboard flashed Castlin had indeed edge out Ofili, the celebration began and the three women embraced.

“This is my gold,” Castlin said about her bronze-medal finish at the Olympic Games. “I’m so excited to share this with everyone. I’m so happy. It was a long destiny but we made it. I felt that I had the support from the whole country. This is not the end but the beginning.”

“It was a feeling of just pure exhilaration when I looked up at the screen and saw the final results. It wasn’t so much about me winning a bronze, but just completing the sweep.(Still,)we knew that the possibility of us sweeping would be kind of a big deal, but we didn’t realize it was the first time in women’s track history that it had been done.”

It had been a long road to an Olympic medal for Castlin, a former state champion at Chapel Hill High School in Douglasville. After enjoying success on the college level at Virginia Tech, the former All-American turned pro.

During her quest for Olympic glory, Castlin used her rising recognition in athletics to speak out about gun violence. She dedicated her three Olympic trial races to the victims of gun violence. It is a cause that is dear to her heart, because she has had an up-close view of tragedy.

“I’ve been around a lot of gun violence in my life,” Castlin said. “Not just Americans, but all over the world, we’re always touched by gun violence, always touched by tragedy. It feels good to be an example, not just for Americans but families all over the world.”

But as a youth, it struck close to home.

Castlin’s father was killed in December 2000, when she was 12, by someone who broke into the hotel he managed and demanded money.

“When you lose a parent, it’s not a pain or a grief that just goes away. As a young person, as you continue to grow and flourish, there are so many parts of your life that you want your family to see and be a part of. I just want other young people (who have experienced the loss of a parent) to know that they are not alone, and if I can make it and overcome, then you can definitely do the same thing.”

She also attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University - the location of one of the worst mass shootings in the nation’s history. In April 2007, a gunman shot and killed 32 people and wounded 17 others on campus.

In October 2014, Castlin was picked by the U.S. Embassy of Guyana to be an Ambassador of Sport to help inspire young athletes. She has since continued to work with children in the metro area.

After her All-American career at Virginia Tech, Castlin became one of the top hurdlers in the world. She has competed in over 40 different countries and, as of January 2017, ranks among the Top 10 in the world for 100-meter hurdles, a ranking she has held for three years straight.

Before the 2016 Games, however, making the U.S. Olympic team was the only accomplishment lacking on her track and field resume. During the trials, she twice failed to make the team - but all that changed when she celebrated her 28th birthday at the Olympic trials in Oregon.

She started the trials with a personal-best time of 12.68 to win her heat and advance to the semi-finals. She would run a 12.77 in a steady downpour in the semi-finals. Two hours later, with a uniform change, Castlin went a personal-best 12.5 seconds to finish runner-up to clinch a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.

She is still competing across the world - and she wants a shot for the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

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