Raevyn Rogers talks “the soft life” and 800m strategy ahead of 2023 World Championships
Raevyn Rogers, 26, is set to make her third World Championships appearance this summer in Budapest at the 2023 World Track and Field Championships which begin on Saturday, August 19 and run through Sunday, August 27.
Live coverage will be available on CNBC, NBC, USA Network, and Peacock. You can also access all TV coverage of the 2023 World Track and Field Championships on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
Rogers, a Houston, Texas native, opens up about her journey to the soft life and how personal growth has helped her become a better person on and off the track. The Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist also discusses the growth, diversity, and strategy of the 800m race below.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity
When did you fall in love with track & field and what drew you to the 800m?
Raevyn Rogers: I started when I was five but I think at that age you don’t really know if you love it, you’re just doing it. I started to fall in love with track probably when I was above the age of 11 or 12. Once there were more opportunities to travel internationally, that’s when it became more fun.
I was put in the 800m pretty young because I wasn’t fast enough to be a sprinter and I didn’t have endurance to be in full distance, so it just became that perfect event for me that my mom put me in. While it is a tough race to grasp because it’s in the middle, it was something that I felt like I grew along with.
Did anyone in your family come from a track and field background?
Rogers: I come from a big sports family. My mom did basketball and she did field events. Half of my family did field, the only other person that ran track was my uncle.
When did becoming a pro athlete become a dream for you?
Rogers: I’m the type of person that is always looking forward. I think I was just doing what I was good at and just growing with it. I never thought I had to be a professional athlete. I would watch it but I was also enjoying being a kid too.
I just went with the flow. I went to Oregon University and had fun running track there and then once the opportunity came to go pro, it was something that I wanted for myself but I also enjoyed not rushing that process and allowing it come.
Tell me about your time at Oregon. How did it shape you into the athlete and person you are today?
Rogers: Oregon just really taught me the love of running. Eugene is just a place that just loves track and field. Being in that space and celebrating with that community, from going in there as a freshman to leaving after my junior year, it was just a time full of love.
It’s a small town so you can have those moments where you’re able to connect with the community more. It just became like a second home to me being from Houston. Although it was so far, there was enough support there to make it seem not so far from home.
How much pride do you have in being an Oregon Duck, especially after having your image engraved in one of the towers at Hayward field?
Rogers: I have a lot of Oregon pride. I have about four pairs of green and yellow sneakers. Being an Oregon Duck is a different level of confidence. If you do track and field and say you went to Oregon, people already know that’s one of the best [programs]. I think that says a lot because football is a huge sport in our country, so for track to have that much respect where the average person knows about the legacy and history of the program says a lot. I carry on the pride of going there and being an art major from the College of Design.
Going with the flow has taken you really far. Let’s talk about some of the monumental moments you’ve had in your career. I want you to give me one word to sum up the experience. Let’s start with the 2016 Olympic Trials.
Rogers: Premature. It was my first time running in an Olympic trials and then I was the only collegiate athlete in the final. I ended up getting tripped up in that race and finishing fifth. So it was just a premature experience towards all of the things to expect as you get into real, competitive racing against pros.
2019 World Championships.
Rogers: Definitely fulfilled. In 2017, I was trying to make that world team and I actually finished fourth. To come back and make the 2019 world team after being so upset in 2017 and then getting silver in 2019 on my first professional, outdoor, big team... that was a huge moment of fulfillment moment for me.
What about the Tokyo Olympics?
Rogers: It was an experience. It was my first Olympics and of course it was during the pandemic. Not having fans and all of the things you would expect for an Olympics, you have to still deliver regardless of the situation. Even the experience of only having 48 hours [to stay in the country] after your last round was insane. It was like The Hunger Games.
You won an Olympic bronze medal. Aside from that amazing memory what is one specific thing that comes to mind when you think of the Tokyo Games?
Rogers: Growth. I’m on this super deep, self-journey, and it was one of the things that revealed where my happiness lied and the expectations [I had] for myself. I felt like I was happy with the bronze but wasn’t satisfied. I remember my mom just being like, “it’s a medal” and trying to really explain to me that the odds of someone winning a medal, let alone being an Olympian, are high.
But from that moment on, it’s caused me to really grow and be more aware of things that I want to actually be fulfilled and satisfied with. I wasn’t satisfied.
You weren’t satisfied when you won the bronze medal in the moment?
Rogers: No, because I couldn’t process it. I was happy that it happened. The after effects of it, like going home and celebrating and having those amazing moments with communities I’ve been a part of, was very fulfilling. But in the moment, maybe the fact that no one was there—my family wasn’t there—played a part because you I didn’t really get to bask in that moment.
Now that you’ve had the time to reflect, how much does that Olympic bronze medal mean to you now?
Rogers: It’s the beginning to a different path that I’m on. I never bask in my accomplishments for long. I’m always looking forward. Sometimes that can be a good or bad thing. [The bronze medal] was something that I was able and blessed to accomplish, given the fact that I didn’t run the race I wanted to.
When I reflect, I realize, wow, I was able to accomplish that and not even be my best self. But I think that’s what makes you a competitor. You always feel like there’s more that you can get out of yourself. But sometimes it can be hard, especially when you’re hard on yourself. It’s important to actually be content in that moment. My bronze medal was something I was very grateful to have experienced and accomplished. I know that there’s more that’s going to come but I’m able to actually give that moment and that time, what it truly deserved.
Thank you for sharing that! A lot of time has transpired between Tokyo and now. You’ve talked a lot about self-growth. How have you grown personally and professionally since then?
Rogers: I have been more disciplined. I do a lot of growth off the track and I realized that it helps me on the track. I’m in my soft-life season. It’s so nice when you’re in it because it really focuses on giving yourself what you give to others.
I’m also growing my faith. Truly trusting and reflecting. I’ve realized it’s actually hard to trust. Whether it’s God or just people. It takes a lot of giving up what you know and expect.
Being an athlete, there are goals that you want to put out there and accomplish. I’ve grown because I just realized I just need to keep it simple. Just show up, do the work, and trust God and that’s taken a lot of the stress away from the competitive part and allowed me to just truly enjoy what I do.
What would having the opportunity to represent the U.S. at your second Olympic Games mean to you in Paris 2024?
Rogers: I think the question would be what would it mean to compete at the Olympics with my family there. It would be a huge blessing to be able to compete at the Olympics again. Now with all this growth that I’ve made since [Tokyo] I’d have a more stable foundation and more of a true inner confidence.
The U.S. Olympic team is one of the hardest to make in the world for track and field. Can you describe what the atmosphere is like at an Olympic Trials?
Rogers: The 800 has grown to be one of the hardest teams to make, which is amazing because it’s come a long way. We have kids that are just so talented. Anybody can come and run a fast time, any given day, and it can be at any age. That’s just crazy.
It’s hard to make the U.S. team but when you do and compete against other teams—it’s not that it’s not as hard, but the hard part was making the U.S. team. There’s a certain level of excellence, a different mentality and aggressiveness. You have to be a certain type of savvy, strong, fearless competitor to really go out there and like claim your spot on the U.S. team.
How do you feel about the way the 800m has evolved in terms of diversity?
Rogers: The 800 is in an amazing place right now. As far as diversity it’s great because when you see everyone lined up in a final, it’s people from all over that have different sizes and body types. Everyone just looks different but we’re each so strong in our own ways.
The 800m right now for America is breaking down barriers and trailblazing because middle distance—distance alone—is not really something that is stereotypically associated with Black people. To have Black women in the 800 is just different when you have the stereotype of distance events just not being for Black people. It’s more than just us though. Of course we acknowledge our other strong competitors as well but there’s a bigger story when it comes to the 800 especially because of the history of it.... America has always been present but I think we’re at a point where we can keep telling that story and pushing the event.
Can you talk about what it’s like being a Black woman on the world’s stage? Have you experienced any pressure?
Rogers: It’s a good pressure. You’re paving the way and other younger girls are looking up to you. It’s cute to see other Black girls getting into the 800 more and not just the sprints. I would hope I’m doing my part to inspire younger girls to partake in it.
I get messages from younger girls in general just asking how to maneuver the race because the event is a beast in itself. It’s strategy, it’s endurance, and it’s speed all in one. I always try and share my knowledge whenever I can to help.
How would you explain the strategy of the 800?
Rogers: Every first lap is always under minute. That’s the first rule. The second lap is more strategy so that’s when you have to do positioning. You have to know when you want to strike and make your move and so that’s when you see more action. It gets crazier and a little scrappier on the second lap.