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VAN WYCK – Welcoming cheers and words of thanks greeted Van Wyck native and two-time Olympic medalist Shawn Crawford when he returned during the Celebrate Van Wyck festival Saturday to sign autographs and greet friends.
It was Crawford’s first visit to the community since winning a silver medal in the 200-meter track event during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in August. Crawford also won gold and silver medals in 2004.Crawford’s visit capped a successful 10th annual community festival, which featured local businesses and artists as well as children’s activities, such as the Van Wyck Express and gem mine.Crawford said he appreciated the community support while he was in Beijing.“Knowing people love you at home is better than knowing the whole world loves you,” he said.His mother, Sylvia; his aunt, Angela Carter; godmother, Marilyn Tims; and former Indian Land High School track coach Michael Gordon made the 13-hour plane trip to see him compete.A larger community-wide celebration for Crawford is being planned for October by the Van Wyck Community Development Club.“This was a coincidence,” said Pat Oglesby, who is helping coordinate the event next month.Crawford returned to his home in Monroe, N.C., on Thursday evening after a taping of the “Oprah Winfrey Show” in Chicago, which featured 150 Olympians. He will go to his Los Angeles home in November when he begins training for upcoming races.Crawford arrived near the end of the Celebrate Van Wyck festival because of preparations for his mother’s birthday the next day, but many of the large crowd remained to see the hometown hero.“We’re so proud of him,” said Oglesby, who met Crawford when he was in third grade. “Not only is he an athletic champion, he’s a gentleman.”When Oglesby first saw Crawford on Saturday, she told him he looked 10 feet tall.“It’s just the hat,” said Crawford, who is known for being humble about his accomplishments and crediting his faith and his family for his success.Crawford signed commemorative T-shirts, signs, shoes and papers Saturday.Crawford said his most memorable Olympic moment was when the media told him he had been moved from his fourth-place finish in the 200-meter race to the silver medal position due to the disqualification of other runners for lane violations.Crawford’s mother, Sylvia, said her son tried to give the medal back, saying he thought he didn’t deserve the win. She told him he deserved it.“If it was meant to be, it was meant to be,” she said.