July 20, 2021
When Natasha Kaiser-Brown came to the University of Missouri in 1985, she didn’t know she’d become one of the most decorated student-athletes in Mizzou history, nor did she know her passion and drive would earn her a spot on the world stage — representing Team USA in two consecutive trips to the Olympics: Barcelona in 1992 (where she won a silver medal) and Atlanta in 1996.
This year, seven Tigers are set to represent their countries at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. As we prepare to cheer them on, Kaiser-Brown gives us the inside scoop on her experiences at the Games and who she’s most looking forward to seeing compete this year. (Hint: It’s a fellow alumna!)
What does it mean to you to be a two-time former Olympian?
There is one moment that really stands out for me: In the finals of the 4x400 meter relay, I ran the first leg. That leg always receives a lot of attention because it’s on the track the longest.
I remember standing there with the baton and looking into the crowd in front of me … All you could see were camera flashes, USA flags and people chanting U-S-A. I looked up at the big screen, and there I was. I remember trying to play it cool and hide my nervousness; I was aware that my image was also being shown on the TV back home … The feeling is hard to describe — maybe like an overwhelming sense of connectedness. I felt like I was drawing strength from those watching at home, and we were going to run the leg together.
You are #MizzouMade. How did your time at Mizzou help prepare you for your success at the Olympics?
I think what sets us apart from other universities and track and field programs is our development of the whole person. Student-athletes are trained to compete, but we understand that no one gets to the top without the help of others. God planted me here at Mizzou so that I would be surrounded by great professors, coaches, teammates, athletic trainers and my family — who were often at my meets. All of these people helped to keep me fit, mentally confident, emotionally balanced and healthy.
Mizzou’s administration understands that there is so much more to sports than just winning. Because of that mindset, our graduates have various experiences and knowledge that they can draw from when facing challenges.
What is your favorite memory from your time at the Games?
The medal ceremony was probably my favorite — walking out with my teammates to receive the silver medal was an awesome feeling.
The team apparel included a separate suit only to be worn for the medal ceremony. We all had packed it — confident that we would earn one of the three medals. I tried to take in the moment; knowing that not everyone has the opportunity to wear the presentation uniform.
Why did you get into coaching?
I think coaching was the next natural step for me. Over the course of my professional career, I was able to learn how to coach from my Mizzou coaches, Rick McGuire and Darroll Gatson, among others. I got to a point where I wasn’t as excited to travel overseas to compete because I was missing the competitions of the athletes I coached.
Why did you come back to Mizzou?
Like so many people, I simply love Mizzou. I have great memories here, and I felt like I had one more move as a coach before I retired. Columbia is the perfect place to raise a family, enjoy the small-town feel with a few city-like events.
What’s one piece of advice you would give athletes whose goal is to make it to the Olympics?
Research and be selfish. Research what the top three athletes have done in your event at the Olympic trials. Then prepare to live a selfish lifestyle that focuses on what’s best for you. This isn’t to be confused with being mean-spirited or living alone — consistent training at a high level and staying competitive over several months and years, leads to making a team.
You’ll have to make sacrifices, say “no” to things and situations that are detrimental to your training or health, choose to work out when you don’t feel like it … all to invest in yourself. So many people say they want to be an Olympian without knowing what it actually takes.
This years’ Games will definitely be different. What/who are you most looking forward to seeing?
I can’t wait to see what Karissa Schweizer does! To have another Iowa athlete, who attended Mizzou, headed to the Games is thrilling! (Kaiser-Brown and Schweizer are both Iowa natives.) Anyone who has ever met her knows she’s something special.
It was heartbreaking when we learned the Games were canceled last year, so I’m just excited we’re even having the Olympics. I heard that there will not be fans, and I can’t imagine Karissa or any of the athletes competing and not having their families experience it in real-time.