JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Olympic gold medalist Tori Bowie has overcome many hurdles in her life.
She is now in a race against time to free her father from prison.
For the first time, she talks publicly about his drug sentence and how it has hit her family.
Bowie is a winner on and off the track, using her life to motivate children across Mississippi to keep pressing ahead, even with the greatest obstacles.
One of those obstacles for her has been her father’s arrest and 50 year prison sentence that he was given in 2013 in Rankin County.
“I was at the Olympic Training Center training and I remember falling out on the ground and it was like boo-hooing, crying, because I was just confused,” said Bowie. “I didn’t know how I was gonna like continue on with life without my dad.”
Bowie says her father was in and out of his children’s lives until she was around 12 or 13.
“I think that’s when he actually started to get his life together and he’s pretty much been in our lives ever since,” she continued.
Her father Dennis Smith is serving 50 years and one day for selling cocaine. He has an enhanced penalty, indicted on seven counts, but the state dropped four of the charges. He was facing 360 years behind bars.
He was also sentenced to 15 months in 1999 on a drug charge.
Bowie says her dad is not violent, never has been violent and his sentence is excessive.
“We don’t try to justify what my dad did, but his sentence on the drug charge was just ridiculous,” said Bowie.
This past weekend she and her family, including her 8-year-old brother, were able to go for a visit.
“He said he wanted some pants like my dad because he wanted to stay with him," said Bowie. “So you can see the kind of love he has for my dad, the kind of love we all have for him.”
Bowie says her father was the source of strength and support. Living without him for the last five years has been difficult.
“It hurt, it hurt really bad when my dad hit that roadblock again,” she explained. “My dad was like the power figure in the family. he was. He he helped us all, he took care of us all.”
Bowie and her family have hired an attorney and they are hoping the judicial system will take another look at this case and her father’s sentence.
Tori is a World Champion and olympic medalist winning gold, silver and bronze at the 2016 summer games.