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Sports, often regarded as the games kids play, can be cruel. In a world of what-have-you-done-lately, athletes are often judged by their latest effort. And a performance by an athlete in the twilight of his career will impact how he’s remembered.
If one wants to remember Olympic champion Shawn Crawford by his latest venture, then so be it.
Crawford, a Van Wyck native and former Indian Land star athlete, came in seventh in an eight-man race in the 200-meter finals for a spot on the U.S. track and field team at the 2012 Summer Games in London.
Crawford, 34, was one of the oldest sprinters in the 200-meter field Sunday, but in true Crawford form, he gave it his best. Running in a younger field (except for Darvis Patton, who’s about month older), Crawford said his competitors’ youth kept him going. A lesser man would have been long gone. That showed in his run up to his third 200m finals Sunday in Eugene, Ore.
He raced through the prelims and semifinals to earn a shot at a third Olympics. Crawford won his semifinal heat with a 20.48 Saturday to earn a spot in the finals.
Crawford said he was tired after the Saturday semis, but nonetheless he was there to try to complete the run to London. He was still part of the focus just prior to the race Sunday as the NBC cameras zoomed in on him as the commentators remarked about his track prowess. His competitors knew Crawford would be a factor, possibly a measuring stick.
“When the gun went off, my main goal was to maintain or catch up to Shawn Crawford,” said 200-meter winner Wallace Spearmon in the post-race press conference.
Spearmon cruised to the win, but Crawford wasn’t as fortunate with a seventh-place finish. The top three make the Olympics team.
Although Crawford didn’t win, he was still a champion. He gave the coveted Olympics spot his best shot, but fell short.
Reflecting on his career, it’s been quite a run for Crawford. Few knew what a bright future was ahead back in 1996 when Crawford, then an ILHS senior, dashed to his destiny at the Class A state track meet, winning the 100m and 200m. Going into the meet, he had a half-track and half-football scholarship offer to Presbyterian, but by day’s end, Clemson, Georgia and other major schools were seeking him.
Given the chance to shine on a higher field, Crawford was the brightest. He was an 11-time All-American at Clemson and won three NCAA titles. Crawford is also a Clemson Hall of Famer and the most decorated Clemson Olympian.
On the international platform, Crawford won Olympic gold in the 200m at the Athens Games in 2004, as well as a silver in the 4x100 meter relay.
Crawford was awarded the 200m silver in 2008 at Beijing, China, after two of his competitors were disqualified for lane violations.
In a true show of Olympic sportsmanship, Crawford returned the 2008 silver medal to Churandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles, who beat Crawford, but was disqualified for a line violation.
Crawford has displayed what a true champion is on and off the track. His selfless approach showed he had come a long way from his Van Wyck roots, but they’re still a big part of his being.
Yes, we wish he was London-bound, but we’re just as proud of what he’s done from Small Town, USA – Van Wyck, where he first stretched his gifted legs on a brilliant race to become the world’s best sprinter.