Harper looks to edge Lolo, make history
When Hickory High School advanced to the state championship in the movie Hoosiers, coach Norman Dale had to remind Jimmy Chitwood and the gang that just because the stage got bigger, it doesn't mean the dimensions of the court changed.
The floor was still the same size. The rim was still the same height.
"I think you'll find these exact same measurements as our gym back at Hickory," said Coach Dale in a role portrayed by Gene Hackman.
USA hurdler Dawn Harper subscribes to the same school of thought. Before racing on the big stage in 2008, she had to remind herself that it was the same race and the 100m hurdles didn't, all of a sudden, become a longer race.
That stage was the Beijing Olympics.
Harper won and brought home a gold medal.
Gold is normally a big deal but it took a back seat when Harper won the race that Lolo Jones failed to medal in after stumbling over a hurdle in the finals.
Harper was overlooked.
Last month, the reigning Olympic champion took first at the Olympic Trials.
The story wasn't Harper, the reigning Olympic champion taking first place at the trials, but rather Jones finishing third to qualify for the Olympic team.
Jones has been a story heading into London. From her comeback effort of sorts, to qualifying for the Olympic team, to her being candid about her virginity on HBO's Real Sports.
All the while, the reigning Olympic champion is looking to do something that hasn't been done before - win consecutive Olympic gold medals in the 100m hurdles.
The attention she received wasn't how she thought it would be.
"When you feel like your dreams come true on the track and then you think that you're going to get publicity and you don't and you feel like you have to get back on that track and time and time again it doesn't happen you have to switch your mindset and say 'At the end of the day, I'm going to handle my business on the track,'" Harper said. "I think it matured me in a way in areas I wouldn't have thought to work on."
Before she could grow, she had to hurt. Admittedly, the publicity, or lack thereof, ate at her a bit.
"Back then, I do feel like I missed out on a lot," Harper said referring to the period following the 2008 Games. "But I would say it was because I didn't have the team publicity-wise that I have behind me now.
"It is what it is."
The UCLA alum and East St. Louis native hasn't forgotten the lessons of the past.
"People are going to tell you (that) you can't, you can't, you can't," Harper's high school coach, Nino Fennoy, would say.
It made her tough. It's a constant reminder. Her road to gold certainly wasn't golden.
Harper has undergone three knee surgeries, one on the left and two on the right.
As a sophomore in high school, she tore her meniscus and PCL. The doctors said she wouldn't be able to run again.
In 2008 she underwent another knee surgery just four months before the Olympic Trials.
Her most recent operation was in 2010, which caused her to miss the entire season.
Harper, the Bob Kersee pupil, who's looking to repeat in the Olympics is healthy heading into London.
That usually spells doom for the competition.
"The people that I know, the fans that I have, they already say I'm a force to be reckoned with," she said. "When I'm healthy, it's a wrap."