After a fall in 2021 U.S. Olympic track trials, Nia Akins is flying high to be heading to the Paris Games

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Nia Akins’ Olympic dreams had slipped away when she fell during the 800 meters while trying to qualify for the Tokyo Games. There were no thoughts going through her head as she laid awake that night.

“It was really silent,” she said of that night in 2021. “I was just staring at the wall. I didn’t sleep an hour.”

Three years later she was once again in Oregon embracing a similar, yet more positive calmness while getting ready to give it another chance and earn a ticket to Paris. 

“I did a worship session. Most of it is guitar, and just like, silence,” she said when describing what she was listening to before the race. “And then, every once in a while, there’s a verse that’s repeated. I was listening to that a lot and was just getting lost in the guitar. And I think they were like, you need to take off your headphones now because we were in the call room or something.”

The message that was on repeat, she said, was “God delivers.” Akins went on to win the 800m with a personal best time of 1:57.36. 

Her first thought after the race was relief, not necessarily about the result, but the fact that the trials were over. A few days later she was still processing the fact that she is actually heading to the Olympics. 

“I’m just really grateful and blessed to have come back to the trials,” she said. “And for this to be the result, to be able to make the team is just … If you told me that in 2021, I probably would have laughed at you. Coming back to race after that, and then that I was gonna win the next one? I’m just in awe.”

Akins won a race that many thought would be won by Athing Mu, who won the gold medal in this event at the Tokyo Games. Mu happened to earn that Olympic by winning the race in which Akins fell. In a twist of fate, this time around Mu is the one who tripped and Akins got the berth.

“People fall a lot in track, unfortunately,” Akins said. “It’s just one of the dangers of our sport sometimes. [For me] it hurt, like physically, mentally, spiritually. It took a minute for me to process and not be scared to cut in and race in big championships like this again, confidently. 

“But yeah, I am super grateful for it because, athletics aside, it made me a stronger believer. It really made me turn to Jesus in a different way than I think I ever did before.”

Akins said she had a lot of conversations with herself to gain confidence. She told herself she was not the same athlete she was in 2021 and now she trusts that everything eventually works out. 

As she heads to Paris, Akins is just trying to enjoy every second of the experience and eat “quite a few croissants” while she is there.

She earned a spot in Team USA to compete in the 800m event, along with Allie Wilson and Juliette Whittaker, that will get underway later this month.

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