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Xavier Carter starts his European tour in Glasgow

1 June 2007

By Dave Ungrady

Moments after he crossed the finish line as the victor in the 400 meters at the 2006 NCAA outdoor championships last June, Xavier Carter held his arms above his head and crossed his wrists to form an X. The symbol is not new to Carter, nicknamed "The X Man". He started flashing the sign in high school football games after he scored a touchdown.

On the track, the sign signals the recent rise of the dynamic U.S. runner, and it may become a lingering symbol of global sprint superiority.

Carter also won the 100 meters and was a member of Louisiana State University's 4x100- and 4x400-meter relay-winning teams at the NCAA meet. The four victories tied him with Jesse Owens, the 1936 Olympic champion considered by many as the most significant U.S. sprinter of all time, for most wins at an NCAA outdoor championship.

A little more than one month after the NCAAs, Carter ran a 200 in 19.63 at a Super Grand Prix meet in Lausanne, Switzerland. In only his second race outside the United States, Carter ran the second-fastest 200 meters in history behind Michael Johnson's world record of 19.32 at the 1996 Olympics. He won with a burst past fellow American Tyson Gay, the U.S. outdoor 100-meter champion. After watching Carter use a burst in the last 50 meters, Gay finished in 19.70.

Clearly, "the X Man" has marked his spot in track and field. He has also declared his intention to be an icon in his sport, and he has an idea of what it takes.

"I have to keep winning and win a lot of medals and hopefully set records," he wrote this week by e-mail from Europe as he prepared to compete in the 400 meters at the EEA Norwich Union Grand Prix in Glasgow on Sunday. "I want to set a good example for young kids as well."

Carter, a native of Palm Bay, Fla., showed superior sprint range as a youth. He scored national youth wins in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters the summer before entering the eighth grade. At Palm Bay High School, he won state titles in those events during his junior and senior years. By the time he graduated, he held nine state titles.

Carter played two seasons of football at LSU and scored two touchdowns as a receiver and kick return specialist. After his quadruple win at the 2006 NCAA outdoor championships as a sophomore, Carter quit football to concentrate on track and field and turned professional. He hired an agent, Mark Block, and signed a deal with Nike that extends through the 2012 Olympics. Block says the deal is "probably the most lucrative contract for any track and field athlete that has come out of college."

Carter joins fellow U.S. sprinters and world championship medalists Lashawn Merritt, Wallace Spearmon Jr., Lauryn Williams and Sanya Richards at Nike.

"He's an outstanding young man," said John Capriotti, Nike's global sports marketing director for running and track and field. "If he stays healthy over the next several years he can be America's next great sprinter."

Without a world championship to contend for, Carter skipped the 2006 U.S. outdoor championships to rest for the European season following his college season.

He won the 100 meters in his international debut at a meet in Switzerland. One week later Carter started the 200-meter race in Lausanne in Lane 8, a disadvantage because it was difficult to gauge his competitors through the turn.

"I could not see anybody until the straight so I just ran," he said. "When I saw Tyson, it pushed me to run faster because I wanted to win. I knew I would run fast but I didn't know I would run that fast." After his display in Lausanne, Carter joined Gay, Merritt, and Spearmon as the best of a growing group of great young male American sprinters. Carter plans to run the 200 at the 2007 U.S. outdoor championships in late June against U.S. 200-meter champion Spearmon, who won a silver medal in the event at the 2005 outdoor world championships and sports a personal best of 19.66.

Carter stays connected to his college roots. He plans to complete his college studies and earn a degree in sports medicine. He trains often with the LSU team and is coached by the school's head coach, Dennis Shaver.

"I am very comfortable with the people around me, and I have family in Baton Rouge so it's a good place for me to be," he said.

While many of the top U.S. runners will compete this weekend at the Reebok Grand Prix meet in New York, Carter will be one of the marquee runners at the Norwich Union Glasgow Grand Prix in Scotland. Block says before the Rebook meet approached Carter to competed, Carter committed to a three-meet series in the Great Britain this summer. Carter will also run at the IIAF Norwich Union British Grand Prix in Sheffield, England, on July 15 and the IAAF Norwich Union Super Grand Prix on Aug. 3 in London.

"The British media have been giving him a lot of exposure," said Block. "He's been on one TV show, in British GQ and major newspapers in Britain."

Carter competed in two indoor meets this past season, running a 400-meter race in Birmingham, England, and a 1600-meter relay leg at the Tyson Invitational in Arkansas. He made his 2007 outdoor debut at the Adidas Track Classic in California on May 20. Carter ran the 200 meters in 20.26 and finished fourth behind Spearmon, Merritt and 2004 200-meter Olympic gold medalist Shawn Crawford. On May 27, Carter finished fourth in the 100 meters in 10.28 at the Thales FBK Games in Hengelo, Denmark.

In Glasgow Sunday, Carter faces a group of 400-meter runners that includes Olympic 4x400-meter relay medalists John Steffensen of Austria and Tim Benjamin of Great Britain as well as Gary Kikaya of the Congo. Only Kikaya, with a 44.10, has run faster than Carter's personal best of 44.53.

There's a chance "The X Man" will flash his trademark symbol again this weekend.

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