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Olympic Games 2008: Angelo Taylor leads U.S. sweep in 400 hurdles

18 August 2008

Angelo Taylor (Image of Sport) Angelo Taylor (Image of Sport)

1. Angelo Taylor (USA) - 47.25
2. Kerron Clement (USA) - 47.98
3. Bershawn Jackson (USA) - 48.06
4. Danny McFarlane (JAM) - 48.30
5. L.J. van Zyl (RSA) - 48.42
6. Marek Plawgo (POL) - 48.52
7. Markino Buckley (JAM) - 48.60
8. Periklis Iakovakis (GRE) - 49.96

Every time Angelo Taylor thought he’d hit rock bottom, he found out things could get even worse.

No need to worry about that free fall anymore. Not after Monday when he became an Olympic gold medalist—again.

“This is so mountain top,” Taylor said after leading an American sweep in the 400-meter hurdles that helped rejuvenate the U.S. team.

It’s hard to imagine Taylor bursting across the finish line in first, not after the path his life took following his gold-medal performance as a 21-year-old at the 2000 Sydney Games.

He suffered microfractures in his shins, was arrested after a police officer said he found him naked in a car with a 15-year-old girl, lost his Nike contract.

Taylor had to go out and find a real job, getting up at the crack of dawn to squeeze in a full day’s work laying wire as an electrician in suburban Atlanta, just so he could still get to the track to train.

The training became Taylor’s escape, his way of remembering what once was good.

But he didn’t know exactly what he was training for.

Gold in Beijing, it turns out.

“I knew I still had it,” Taylor said Monday night after running the fastest race of his life, 47.25. The victory made him the first 400-meter hurdler since Edwin Moses to win gold medals eight years apart.

Although Taylor might have been discounted in track circles, he wasn’t in his inner circle.

“It was like he was on a mission,” said his mother, Subrena Glenn-Everett, who wore a T-shirt with a picture of her son clearing a hurdle across the front. “He had to stay focused and just remember what he stands for. He’s the king of the hurdles.”

The king had a mighty fall.

He failed to reach the final in Athens, his legs in agonizing pain after a disappointing semifinal run. X-rays revealed nine microfractures in his right shin and seven more in his left, the result of running on hard surfaces all his life.

He was told to shut it down for a full year.

Then, in 2005, Taylor pleaded guilty to charges of contributing to the delinquency of two underage girls and received three years’ probation.

That’s not a part of his past he likes to revisit.

“To go through what I went through and be back and be blessed enough to come back and be an Olympic champion, it can’t get any better than this,” Taylor said. “I feel like I’m on top of the world right now.”

Just 14 months ago, he was earning $12 an hour rewiring buildings. He showed up at the track, sleeping in his car until his coach would tap on the window.

Innocent Egbunike couldn’t help but gush about Taylor after his pupil’s performance, knowing full well how Taylor would drag himself to the track, dusty and drained.

“He believed in himself, and what we were doing,” Egbunike said. “This is the result. There’s more to come. He’s not even reached his potential.”

After Taylor finished with a throng of interviews, he found himself alone for a minute, just time enough to celebrate his success by himself, clenching his fists in excitement.

It’s easy to understand why.

“This is the biggest sporting event in the world, biggest stage in sports— you’ve got the whole world watching,” Taylor said. “To come out here and perform like I did, get the gold and have a USA sweep, it can’t get any better than this.”

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