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Penn Relays: Shoeless Natasha Hastings returns

Olympic gold medalist back at Penn Relays, leading 4x400 women’s relay team.

Natasha Hastings is usually a big fan of Philadelphia. She leaves extra room in her suitcases, so she can hit the city’s trendy boutiques — and room in her belly for West Philly funnel cake.

But, when she’s forced to sit in an airport all day, the track star has a little different outlook. Hastings, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, was due into town Thursday for the Penn Relays, but bad weather delayed her flight.

“Today I’m a little upset at Philly, because I couldn’t get in,” Hastings said. “No, I’m joking. The city is great. The fans are always loud and supportive.”

Hastings is one of the headliners for Saturday’s Team USA vs. the World 4x400-meter relay. She has competed in the Penn Relays every year since 2000, including a memorable 2009 performance, when she ran her entire leg with just one shoe on.

“My left shoe came off. I stopped for a split second, but I kept running. Emotion, adrenaline, all that stuff took over,” she said.

Hastings had busted her big toe as she grabbed the baton. It took almost two weeks to heal.

“It didn’t hurt,” she said. “There was no pain until the next day.”

For Hastings, the pain was well worth it as her relay team won the race. This weekend, she looks for another victory against a tough Jamaican squad — and hopefully she can keep both shoes on.

“We go into every race expecting to win, but we know the Jamaicans are going to bring it,” Hastings said. “It’s going to be fun … Anytime you put on the USA uniform, it’s a great feeling.”

Hastings called the Penn Relays “the last meet of fun” on her calendar. She will travel to Jamaica next week to compete in a 400-meter individual event, and then to Puerto Rico in two weeks for a 400 and 200. Her ultimate goal is the 2012 Olympics in London.

“I got two more Olympics, to give it a good shot,” said the 25-year-old.

 
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