Anyone who knows me knows how much I love and respect my little sister Cindy Sember, and I am incredibly protective over her. So much so that my mom has jokingly called me her “second mom” in the past.
For those of you who don’t already know, my sister is a world class hurdler, two time Olympian, University of Michigan track & field hall of famer, and the newly crowned British Record holder. Yes, in case you weren’t aware, she broke my 100 meter hurdle record that I set in 2014 at the 2022 World Championships.
And I couldn’t be more proud.
It was a peculiar feeling watching my sister run a National Record, while competing in the fastest race in history where the world record was shattered, while breaking a record that was mine, all while having to wait for confirmation that her time was fast enough to make the finals.
While watching Cindy compete in the prelims, the emotions were high. I was proud, nervous, in shock, excited, and then relieved once I saw that she was a time qualifier for the World Championship Finals. This was her first world champs final, which should be celebrated in and of itself.
Then the feeling of “oh wait she just broke my record” set in. And I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a twinge of “dang heffa” that I felt. Haha. Guys I’m human and I’m just being honest. But those emotions were immediately replaced with a feeling of pride for my sister, and joy in witnessing all her hard work and commitment pay off.
I remembered the folks who wrote her off after her “career ending” injury.
I remembered the tears she cried having to be sidelined while everyone else was competing.
I remembered the grueling sessions we did together in the fall with my husband Jeff coaching us.
I remembered the leap of faith she took by moving to Arkansas to train with a new coach (shout out to Chris Johnson; thanks for getting baby sis ready).
I remembered the endless conversations we’ve had about sacrifice and trusting God’s plan.
And this was all before she even lined up for the finals.
Needless to say I was a nervous wreck.
The hurdler in me recognized that so much can happen in a final and not to get caught up in with predictions and semi-final times.
The fan in me was still in shock by the 12.12 (+0.9 ) world record that Tobi Amusan of Nigeria had just ran (huge congrats to her).
The numbers person in me was recalling previous championships and analyzing how the results compared.
And the big sister in me was literally praying for a clean and injury free final race for Cindy.
I’ve told my sister now that I’ve retired that I’m living vicariously through her, and I really felt that while watching her compete at the World Championships. I’ve been “shooting with her in the gym” for years I have seen first hand all that goes into her being the athlete she is today. Win, lose, or draw, I’m going to ride for my little sister, and although I typically exhibit tough love with her, it is important for me to ensure she knows just how proud I am of her and her incredible journey so far.
Here is a screenshot of the very short and candid conversation we had before her semi-final race:
Then it was time for the finals and we had to ride the rollercoaster of emotions yet again but now with medals on the line. We had the TV on loud, my daughter was up way past her bedtime, my husband (and Cindy’s former coach) had the live results pulled up, my brother was next to me pacing and praying, my nephew was recording the race on his iPad, my sister in law was tuned in, and I was there feeling the anticipation with my sister.
Cindy was in lane 1, had a decent start, was technically sound, and had an amazing last half of the race like she always does. She ran 12.38 (+2.5) and ended up 5th in what was unequivocally the fastest hurdle race in history and a World Championships Finals that the world will never forget.
Check out the offical results of the 100 meter hurdles race to see exactly what I mean:
To run such a fast time and get 5th is a testament to how remarkable race was. I knew it was going to be a great race, but I was blown away at what I witnessed. From a statistics standpoint, yes the race was insane, but for me, more importantly, I was in awe at how my sister maintained her composure during the race.
Click here to watch the race.
Cindy exhibited poise, grit, and professionalism. She stayed in her lane, represented her country and family well, and left it all on the track, and for that I am overwhelmingly proud of her.
We spoke briefly after the race like we always do and after I listened to her reactions to the rounds, I congratulated her on breaking my record, and made it known that she did a fantastic job. It’s a bittersweet feeling to run the best you’ve ever run, and somehow not feel fully satisfied and/or slightly disappointed. I know that feeling first hand, and I was able to empathize with Cindy in that moment and offer a little encouragement.
Big sis had to remind baby sis of how amazing she is, and how her testimony will continue to help countless people.
Congrats to Tobi, Brittany, and Jasmine for medalling and walking away with hardware in what was arguably the best event of the champs.
Every single athlete has a story and I love how sport gives them the ability to tell it and inspire others simultaneously. I hope that the next generation of athletes pull inspiration from the amazing performances and walk away feeling encouraged from my sister’s story that the sky is the limit. ALWAYS bet on yourself, surround yourself with people who see your potential, and know that there are no shortcuts to success.
Thank you Cindy for holding it down; your big sis is very proud!