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Van Wyck native earns spot on 200-meter team

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By Natalie Harris

Van Wyck native and Olympic medalist Shawn Crawford will get another shot at Olympic gold this summer.

Crawford, 30, qualified for the Beijing Olympics in the 200-meter race at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., on Sunday.

Crawford had the best legal times in all of his heats.

In the final race, he came in second by five-thousandths of a second. Three-time NCAA champion Walter Dix just beat out Crawford at the finish in 19.852 seconds. Crawford had 19.857. Wallace Spearmon also qualified for the Olympics with 19.90.

USA Today reported that the electronic scoreboard at Hayward Field initially posted Crawford as coming in first. Crawford was confused, too.

"I kind of thought I did [win] with the dip, but it is kind of hard when somebody comes up and you are side-by-side for the photo finish," Crawford said, according to USATF.com.

"I knew I had made the team, though. I was happy I made the team. I get another chance to go try to get it in Beijing," he said.

Since winning the gold in the 200 meter race and the silver in the 400-meter relay in the 2004 Olympics, many thought Crawford was a long shot for the 2008 Olympics.

Before the trials, Crawford said his confidence levels were lower than they should have been. This seemed justified when Crawford was eliminated from the 100 meter quarterfinal last week, coming in 20th.

Crawford also said his coach Bobby Kersee had focused on the 200 meter.

"We've done a lot of stuff like we're running the 400 meters," Crawford said before the trials.

That training paid off. First, Crawford outran Tyson Gay in the qualifying race. Gay beat Crawford in the 100 meter race last week and qualified for the Olympics in that event.

But then Gay fell in the first 40 meters of the 200 meter quarterfinals because of a muscle strain in his left leg. Crawford said Gay's injury changed the dynamics of the competition.

"I'm really sorry about his injury," Crawford said after the 200-meter quarterfinal. "I think it takes a little bit of pressure off of everyone because there is now one more spot."

Crawford said his achievement has been hard won.

"The past four years have been hard, but I stayed in it," Crawford said. "There were a lot of trials and tribulations that came out."

Crawford had suffered inflammation of the feet and had surgery last year. And his hip flexors had been giving him trouble.

But none of that seemed to matter last weekend, when Crawford blew away most of his mostly younger competitors in the 200.

"I had to face adversity and go win. Strive to be the best and work my way back up to the top. I can't let nothing hold me down," Crawford said.

"I feel like I am on my way to overcoming. I am almost there. Beijing will be the telltale."

Friends' reactions

Marilyn Tims, a Crawford family friend, said Crawford was "superb" at the trials. She is going to Beijing with Crawford's mother, Sylvia.

"I'm looking forward to hanging out with her ... and watching him winning the gold," Tims said.

Tims will hang banners supporting Crawford in her yard.

Gary Moore, Crawford's former track coach at Indian Land High School, also watched the trials.

"It was so close," Moore said, then started laughing. "You had to watch the replay. It was just so close."

Moore said Crawford is an "awesome athlete."

"I think he's been running really, really hard," Moore said. "I think he's been running as hard as he can, but I think when he gets to the Olympics, he's going to turn it up another notch."

Moore expects Crawford to win the gold again. He praised Crawford for his humility and acknowledgment of God's blessing.

"Shawn pretty much has his priorities in order," Moore said. "He's taken care of his body and he's worked hard to get where he is and he's worked hard to maintain where he is."

Crawford speaks out on doping

Before the 2004 Olympics, Crawford trained with coach Trevor Graham, who was recently convicted for his involvement in a doping scandal.

Crawford, who cut his ties with Graham in 2006, says he was never involved.

"Whatever he did with anybody else, I'm not worried about it," Crawford told The Washington Times. "I know what I did. People make mistakes. I didn't make those mistakes. I'm not worried about it."

Crawford wrote at urbanthoughtcollective.com that he tries not to think about it at all.

"My sport has been plagued with a lot of drug scandals lately," he wrote June 30. "But you know, I don't think about it much at all... If I get caught up, or worry about being suspected, then I cannot perform at my full potential during competition."

This is the first year the U.S. Olympic trials have required blood tests for doping. Olympic officials received results Tuesday, but the results won't be announced until July 14.

Contact Natalie Harris at cgreporter@gmail.com