WONder Women: Shelbi Vaughan

This Olympic discus thrower and DAY/WON athlete shares her feelings on the 2020 Tokyo postponement, as well as her best tips for feeling absolutely amazing in the body you were born with. 

Four years ago today, a 21-year-old Shelbi Vaughan was training for the most important competition of her life. Fresh out of graduating from Texas A&M University where she had set the school record as a track-and-field athlete in the discus throw, Shelbi was ready for the big time: the Summer Olympics. 

In June of 2012, she placed second in the U.S. Olympic Trials, good enough to earn a spot on Team USA and a ticket to Rio. Along the way, she showed herself that she had what it took to compete with the best–and proved to anyone who had doubted her that she was one of the greatest athletes in the world.

Over the last few years, Shelbi built her life around making it back to compete in her second Olympics: Tokyo 2020. Her and husband, Korben, live in Texas, where Shelbi often practices two times a day, while balancing jobs as a nanny and volleyball coach.

Of course, this year, plans changed. 

We got a chance to talk to Shebli about her feelings on the Olympic postponement, why the delay is especially hard on female athletes, and what she tells herself to stay body-positive no matter what.  


What was it like to compete in your first Olympics? It must have been a life-changing event.

Emotionally, making the Olympics in Rio was a whirlwind. It was something I never thought I could accomplish. I never felt like I was good enough. I tried to make it when I was 17, but I didn’t really believe in myself back then. Not many people did other than my mom and my coach. I made a promise to myself that in four years, I would try again. 

When 2016 came around, it hadn’t been a great year for me. I had to remember the promise I made. After that, I was able to relax. When I made the team, it meant so much to me, because it felt like I was paying my mom back for everything she did for me. I was super emotional because her and I both had worked really hard toward this dream. 

How did you find out the Olympic Games had been cancelled this year? 

Before everything went crazy, I was focused on making my second Olympic team. My big goal was to place top 10 in the world-–and the possibility of winning a medal is always there too. 

After the news around the virus came out, local meets had been cancelled, but the Olympic committee still hadn’t made a decision. 

I ended up finding out about the postponement on Instagram. That was okay. I understand that it’s not possible to call every single athlete beforehand. Part of me was hoping for it to be postponed, because I was worried about the health of the spectators and the athletes. But I would have liked for it to be decided sooner. Training a high level while we were still waiting for the announcement made a big difference in my real life.

What do you think is the biggest impact of the postponement for athletes? 

My husband and I had planned to try for our first child right after the Olympics. I still plan on competing in Tokyo 2021, but now it puts us in this weird situation. 

It’s even harder for some of my [older athlete] friends who were planning on retiring right after the Olympics and focusing on starting their family. A whole year can make a difference. I really feel for them. 

All together, for female athletes, it’s tough. Men can have kids and real lives and just go on with it and continue to train. For women, you need to put your life on hold for the spor–or your sport on hold for your life. It’s hard. 

When it comes to being a female athlete, you've been vocal about body image too. How do you practice self love? 

All my life, I had people tell me that I couldn’t be an athlete. I had to dig deep inside of me and figure out what I wanted. Now I know that if you put your mind and your heart in something, there’s nothing that can hold you back. 

My motto now is: “My body can do things that your body can’t.” Your body can probably do things that my body can’t! It just so happens, that my body can throw a discus really far. Everyone is completely different. Who can shame that? 

It took me a while to be comfortable in my skin and to appreciate my body for what it can do. Now I’ve accomplished a lot of things, I would have never thought possible.