Quanera Hayes placed first in the women’s 400m at the Olympic track and field trials in June, securing her spot on Team USA at the Olympics.
She shared her joy in the moment with two important people in her life: Her 2-year-old son, Demetrious, and her teammate and longtime friend Allyson Felix, who also earned her spot on Team USA. A photo of Hayes and Felix celebrating their victory with their young children went viral. Felix is mom to Cammy, also age 2.
“That moment meant everything to me,” Hayes told TODAY Parents. “I loved the fact we could show other moms that it’s still possible to go after your dreams and it’s still possible to be successful. The reward is so much greater in the end.”
Hayes said her son enjoyed the magical moment just as much as she did… maybe even more.
“My son loved walking that victory lap with me,” recalls Hayes about that day she’ll never forget. “He was thinking, ‘I’m getting a lot of attention right now.’ It was more of a moment for him than me! He soaked up the attention high-fiving people; and he hugged Cammy on the track. It was great for my son to finally meet Allyson’s daughter and for us to share that experience with them.”
Read more: 10 Olympic moms to watch for in Tokyo
She almost quit
Being the mom of a toddler and an Olympic athlete may be exhausting, but Hayes said she feels “empowered.”
“That mindset that I have now as a mom; that ‘go-get-it’ attitude is heightened times ten. I had a baby, am raising a child, and practice every day and fight every day for a dream… it feels like nothing is impossible.”
In 2018, Hayes contemplated quitting track altogether because she struggled with her postpartum body and lacked confidence in her athleticism. Knowing Felix was also juggling track practice with new motherhood — along with her determination to “do this for my son” — motivated Hayes to keep trying. She also draws motivation from a college friend named Aiyanna who passed away; when racing, Hayes wears a purple hairband in her memory.
“I like to think she’s one of my son’s Guardian Angels.”
Allyson and Quanera
In her Instagram with the photo of her and Felix, Hayes wrote to her teammate, “Thank you for using your voice to speak up for mother’s and pregnancy. Where would I be if it wasn’t for your voice.”
She continued, “I’m so honored to have the privilege to share this moment with you!”
Felix has been a vocal advocate for athlete moms; she has openly discussed her traumatic birth experience and posed for a powerful ad campaign that showcased her C-section scar. Felix brought attention to the disparity in pay between female and male athletes and the “motherhood penalty” that many female athletes experience when she publicly shared the lack of support she felt from her former sponsor Nike.
Hayes is still a Nike Athlete. She said her experience with Nike was different than Felix’s, and said Felix understands.
Thinking about the future (sometimes)
When the photo of Cammy meeting Demetrious went viral, Felix and Hayes’ fans started joking that the two toddlers might get married someday.
“Oh my God, it’s so funny!” Hayes said. “But no, Allyson and I haven’t joked about our kids getting married.” Hayes said she’s in no hurry for Demetrious to grow up, and she’s just trying to enjoy his toddler years. “I don’t think about his future. Time is going by too fast for me and he’s my little baby!”
Post-Olympics, Hayes’s next goal is a career in fashion, inspired by her son.
“Hopefully one day I can start a clothing line for little boys,” she said. “I love to have him dress up nicely because he’s just so adorable, especially when his hair’s sticking out — he’s a cool kid!”