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Wadeline Jonathas: From Homeless in High School to Becoming A Division III Legend, NCAA Champion And Olympian

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“Going to Worlds in 2019, that was never part of the plan. I didn’t even know there was something called Worlds… I went into all of this with no expectations. I went into (2019 US Championships) with a 50.6 and knowing people could run 49s. But each and every day there, I walked around like, ‘Nobody can beat me. I’m Wadeline.’ I looked at it from how far I came to get there and how fast I got there. I wasn’t looking at it as I’m not fast enough. I saw it as for me taking this journey from high school to Division III and then making it here in less than a year – so going into Trials, I thought ‘Those people got nothing on me. I’m here for a reason and I’m here to stay.’”


Wadeline Jonathas’ story is truly remarkable. She was bullied. She went to three different high schools. She was homeless. She found inspiration to get serious about track by watching the 2016 Olympics on TV which led to her to one of the most successful Division III careers at UMass Boston – where she initially walked onto the team. After sophomore year, she transferred to the University of South Carolina, where she truly blossomed into the star that she is now. She won the 2019 NCAA title, qualified for the U.S. national team and then finished fourth at the World Championships in 49.60.

She opens up about the struggles of the pandemic and why she had her doubts about making the U.S. Olympic team in 2021. Last summer, she took third at the Trials to accomplish her dream and then reached the semifinals of the 400 in Tokyo. She earned a gold medal as a member of the U.S. 4x400m relay. She’s still hungry for that individual medal and at 24 years old, she’s got potential. Outside of the track, she also wants to make some big changes. I loved this conversation that we recorded at the Team USA summit ahead of their White House visit.

Catch the latest episode of the podcast on Apple Podcasts. We are also on Stitcher, Google Play and Spotify.


wadeline jonathas citius mag podcast interview 2022

Photo by Justin Britton/@justinbritton


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SHOW NOTES AND NOTABLE QUOTES

“When I went into high school, I started to pick up on sports and I did as many as I could fit in. I went to three different high schools. The first one – I loved it there. It was so easy to make friends and I had a bunch of friends. I didn’t have any bullies. In fact, the people on the team loved me. I did basketball. I did crew. I even did volleyball. But when I transferred schools during sophomore year because the whole homeless thing happened, I kind of struggled to fit in. Being homeless, you don’t want people to actually know that you’re homeless. Eventually, I get to tell the story but it’s not something you actually want people to know while you’re going through it.”

– “I never saw any of this as a way out. I just went through life and just survived. Whatever happens, happens. I never dreamt big. I just wanted to go to college and get a job like the typical college student. But it was never this. This came into the picture when I was 18 years old. After running a 55 in the 400m and then watching the Olympics in 2016, I was like, ‘Pshh…I’m only like four seconds away. I can do this.'”


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