When John Nunn crossed the finish line to win the 50K Racewalk Olympic Trials event in Santee this past February, his 12-year-old daughter greeted him with an American flag and big, long hug.
Racewalking is an individual sport, but the powerful moment captured the culmination of years of teamwork between a single dad and the most important person in his life.
John and his daughter, Ella, are more than just roommates and friends. They’re also business partners who bake and sell hundreds of cookies a year.
“When I was little, I'd come into the kitchen and I would make these crazy concoctions that no one wanted to eat,” Ella told NBC 7 San Diego.
Her dad tried them all.
“[I would tell Ella] ‘Well, let’s do white chocolate chip apple pie or s’mores,’” Nunn recalled. “And so, we’d sit and try to figure out [cookie flavors] and more often than not they were hits.”
The creativity of an elementary school child combined with ingenuity of an ultra-competitive dad proved to be a winning combination.
The dad-daughter duo formed Ella’s Cookie Company. Today, their sweet business offers about 15 different kinds of cookies, from the original Chocolate Chunk Toffee to Peanut Butter Chip.
Nunn estimates last year’s sales were about $4,000. He says with a little more time and experience, the company could really take off.
But for a two-time Olympian training for his third trip to the summer games, time is the toughest ingredient to come by.
“She always laughs because on the way home, usually at night, we’ll start going over what is happening the next day or two days later and she’s like, ‘I know, I know’, and I’m like, ‘We need to understand all this cause life gets complicated,’” said Nunn.
As partners in life Nunn and his daughter have watched communication, support and flexibility extend well beyond their kitchen where their cookies are made.
“She has been part of all the training and all the sitting in the cars, and getting dropped off at friends’ [houses],” said Nunn. “It’s not just me, it's her that makes the team.”
Most people didn't realize it but at the time of February's 50K Racewalk Olympic Trials event, Nunn – the top American racewalker – barely made it to the starting line.
Just two days before the race he came down with a nasty case of the flu.
He remembers crying in his hotel room the night before - the physical pain almost as bad as the feeling of four years of training slipping away.
Luckily, he had his biggest fan by his side.
“Ella was playing nurse through the night, watching me,” said Nunn.
Just after breaking through the tape at the finish line at the trials and realizing he’d met the time standard to compete at the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Nunn didn’t have to look far to find his daughter.
She was right there.
His little girl, the reason the cookies and Olympics taste so sweet.