This story was originally published on ABC News here.
In the summer of 2017, as the Junior Olympics drew to a close, Albert Essilfie, head coach of the Camden Track Club in New Jersey, asked his group of 41 student athletes what they had learnt from watching the games. For most of the children, it went right over their heads, he recalled to ABC News.
But one 10-year-old girl spoke up. The former Olympians giving speeches at the opening ceremony had made a deep impression on her.
“If I go to the Olympics and I win a medal then I could stand in front of a group and then talk to people like they’re talking,” she told Essilfie. “I want to go the Olympics one day.”
That 10-year-old girl, Sianni Wynn, moved one step closer to her dream by making history at the National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships last weekend.
Wynn completed the 400-meter dash in 58.7 seconds, shattering a 24-year-old national age group record.
The previous record of 59.8 seconds was set in 1994 by Monique Henderson, who went on to become a double gold medalist in the Olympics.
“I was kind of nervous because I was like ‘go, go, go,'” Wynn told ABC News affiliate WPVI in Pennsylvania after her victory. “I thought they were close to me, but they weren’t.”
Wynn’s mother, Nakia Wynn, told ABC News her family was thrilled. “At this point we’re just extremely excited about her accomplishment and for where it might take her in the future,” she said.
Essilfie describes Wynn as humble and friendly, but self-driven at a level unusual among children in her age group.
“She likes to win but she wants the best for herself — and that’s amazing for a kid her age,” he said. “I’ve coached for 24 years and I’ve seen it all, parents yelling at kids and pushing their kids. But with Sianni, all you have to say is ‘Good luck! Have fun!’ She goes out there for the love of it. At the race where she broke the record, she went out and ran her heart out.”
Her mother Nakia too describes her daughter as a girl with innate talent and drive, whose gift for speed burst out suddenly and unprompted when she was 7. “We actually didn’t notice until she started with the track club and she had a competition, and we said, “Oh! Maybe we have something on our hands here.”
Though there’s a long way to go, the 10-year-old and her family hope to get a scholarship for college and for her to one day compete in the Olympics.
But for now, the young athlete is celebrating in small ways – like with a victory doughnut.
Essilfie said that before the race, Wynn told an older athlete, Tierra Hooker, who had broken two national records last year in the high jump and pentathlon that she wanted to be like her and break records too. Hooker, now a sophomore, promised Wynn that if she broke the record, she’d get her a doughnut.
“So as soon as Sianni was done with the race, she came to me and asked, ‘Where’s Tierra?'” Essilfie laughed. “She wanted the doughnut.”