Van Wyck welcomes Olympic champ

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By Chris McGinn

VAN WYCK – A Congressman, a councilman and a coach were just a few of the more than 150 people who gathered Saturday to honor two-time Olympian Shawn Crawford.

The Van Wyck community came out to celebrate Crawford's homecoming following his silver medal in the 200-meter race at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games in August.

A similar event was held in 2004 after he won a gold medal in the 200-meter and silver medal in the 100-meter relay at the Athens Summer Olympic Games.

"You've made us proud to be Americans and proud to be South Carolinians," said U.S. Rep. John Spratt, D-5th District.

County Councilman Fred Thomas read a resolution from County Council in appreciation of Crawford, and Indian Land High School Booster Club president David Helms presented Crawford with a plaque recognizing his achievements.

Coaches from high school and college recounted their impressions of Crawford's talent.

Gary Moore, an Indian Land High School coach, claimed he "just drove the bus" because Crawford's talent was a God-given ability and that his coaching did little to influence Crawford's success.

He also thanked Crawford for being a role model to future athletes by playing according to the rules.

"There are no shortcuts to being a champion except hard work," Moore said.

Josh Langley, an assistant track coach from Clemson University, said he didn't coach Crawford, but competed in events against him during college.

"It's a thing of beauty to watch you run," he said.

Langley represented coach Bob Pollock, who recruited Crawford to Clemson University after seeing his race times from high school meets.

Crawford went on to hold 11 All-American honors and three national championships while at Clemson.

Former Clemson coach Charles Foster told stories about Crawford's years at the school and his recent Olympic trip, where Foster served as a team coach.

He said the relay team, which included Crawford, stayed at its training camp instead of attending the opening ceremonies. Crawford came to dinner that night dressed in full parade uniform, just like the athletes who walked in the Beijing event. Because he was the only one who dressed up, at first people laughed, but then they gave him a standing ovation.

Other speakers were the Rev. Randy McSpadden; Al Williams, who read a statement from Gov. Mark Sanford; and Jimmy Fox, who represented Indian Land High coach Mike Pope.

Tommy Broome, who emceed the event, presented Crawford with a few gifts from the community to honor his "second sport" – fishing.

Crawford spoke briefly, saying that it is easy to be in the spotlight on the track, but that he doesn't always know how to handle the attention in everyday life.

"It doesn't mean I'm not appreciative," he said, explaining that he has been making himself more available to people who want him to speak or visit with youth.

The event closed with songs from White Oak AME Church's Mass Choir, including a solo by Crawford, followed by a balloon release on the Shawn Crawford Fitness Track.