Monday, October 5, 2009

"I'M NOT INTO PSYCHING... I JUST RUN"



Considered one of the world's fastest women, track star and Decatur native Gwen Torrence spent the first few days of her life in an incubator, a time her mother described as "the only slow part of Gwen's life." The youngest of five children, Torrence was born on June 12, 1965, with her umbilical cord around her neck. She suffered no ill effects from her precarious start in life and went on to become one of the most decorated runners in history.
Torrence's running ability first attracted attention when she was a student at Columbia High School in DeKalb County. Her physical education teacher, Ray Bonner, noticed her speed and decided to time Torrence in the 220-yard dash; she broke the state record wearing street clothes and low-heeled shoes. Bonner coaxed Torrence into joining the track team. At first Torrence was too shy to practice with the team. She won three consecutive state 100- and 200-meter dash championships, earning All-American honors her senior year, 1982-83. That summer she also won two gold medals at the Junior Olympics.
The University of Georgia (UGA) offered Torrence a full scholarship, which she initially refused. Since her grades were relatively low and she planned to become a hairstylist, Torrence saw no need to attend college. Once again Bonner intervened, convincing Torrence a college degree was beneficial no matter what she planned to do. Torrence accepted the university's offer, becoming the first in her family to attend college.
During her years at UGA, Torrence earned All-American honors twelve times and won four NCAA championship titles. During her freshman season (1983-84) she received an invitation to the U.S. Olympic Trials, but she declined because she felt that she was too young. Torrence improved every year she was at the university, winning at the 1986 Millrose Games, held at Madison Square Garden in New York, and the 1987 World University Games, held in Zagreb, Yugoslavia. She also proved herself in the classroom, graduating in 1987 with a degree in early childhood education.
At the 1988 Millrose Games, again held at Madison Square Garden, Torrence won her thirty-third consecutive race and became the woman to beat during the Olympics in Seoul, Korea. Florence Griffith-Joyner, however, shocked the world by beating Torrence and setting new world records for both the 100- and 200-meter dash. After the Seoul Olympics, Torrence took some time to enjoy family life with her husband, Manley Waller, a fellow UGA sprinter, and their son, Manley Waller III.
With her husband's support, Torrence soon set her sights on the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. She lost the 100-meter to Gail Devers but won a gold medal in the 200-meter. She also won a gold medal for her participation in the 400-meter relay team and a silver medal for running on the 1600-meter relay team. Torrence continued to compete, winning the gold for the 100-meter at the World Championship Games in Gothenberg, Sweden. She also competed in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where she again won the gold for the 400-meter relay and bronze for the 100-meter dash. Overall, Torrence is considered one of the finest female sprinters in the world. She was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2000.
(By Lisa A. Ennis, Copyright 2004-2009 by the Georgia Humanities Council and the University of Georgia Press)

Awards and Accomplishments:
1986 Gold medal, 55-meter dash, Millrose Games
1987 Gold medals, 55, 100, and 200 meters, NCAA Championships
1987 Gold medals, 100 and 200 meters, World University Games
1991 Silver medals, 100 and 200 meters, World Championships
1992 Gold medals, 200 meters and 4 × 100 meter relay; silver medal, 4 × 400 meter relay, Olympic Games
1993 Silver, 200 m, Bronze 100 m, World Athletics Championships
1995 Gold medal, 100 and 200 meters, U.S. Outdoor Championships; gold medal, 100 meters, World Championships
1995 Top Athlete Overall
1996 Gold medal, 4 × 100 meter relay, and bronze medal, 100 meters, Olympic Games
2002 Inducted into Track and Field Hall of Fame
(sports.jrank.org)


1991 World Champs 100m & 200m silvers
copyright © of George Herringshaw
& sporting-heroes.net


Gwen Torrence
Barcelona 1992
copyright © of George Herringshaw
& sporting-heroes.net


Barcelona 1992, final 100 m
rapidas.webcindario.com


Gwen Torrence of the United States
Gold medal in the women's 200 meters
Barcelona 1992
Photography by Jerry Lodriguss


Gwen Torrence
Barcelona 1992
rapidas.webcindario.com


Barcelona 1992 4x100 m
(L to R) Gwen Torrence, Carlette Guidry
Esther Jones and Evelyn Ashford


Women's 100m. Final
World Athletics Championships 1993
copyright © of George Herringshaw
& sporting-heroes.net



Gwen Torrence
Atlanta 1996
rapidas.webcindario.com


4x100 meter relay
1996 Atlanta Olympics, GA
Sports Illustrated


4x100 meter relay
1996 Atlanta Olympics, GA
copyright © of George Herringshaw
& sporting-heroes.net


Victory lap 1996 Atlanta Olympics, GA
(L to R) Inger Miller, Gail Devers, Chrystie Gaines
and Gwen Torrence
4 x 100-meter gold medal
© Amy Sancetta, AP/Wide World Photos


Atlanta 1996 100 m Medal Winners
Gwen Torrence, Gail Devers and Merlene Ottey
rapidas.webcindario.com


Gwen Torrence stood there Saturday night and let the noise rain down around her, the roar of 80,000 people saluting her Olympic gold medal as anchor of the women's 400-meter relay team. Torrence had been on victory stands before. She won a pair of golds at Barcelona in 1992. But the one she earned in Atlanta was special. ``For me to get on the top podium in my hometown,'' she said, ``that's fantastic.'' Torrence spent the first four years of her life in East Lake Meadows, a housing project just 10 minutes from what is now Olympic Stadium. Her family then moved to government housing in the suburb of Decatur. A shy youngster, Torrence always had one thing going for her -- speed. She once outran a football wide receiver in high school, and after that began competing in track, training in street shoes because she thought spikes were too flashy. A former star at the University of Georgia, she was supposed to contend for gold in the 100 and 200 at the Atlanta Games. Then, disaster.
She hurt her hamstring during the Olympic trials in June and failed to qualify for the 200-meter race, an event she won at Barcelona. ``I think if the games hadn't been in Atlanta,'' she said, ``I would have pulled out because of my leg.'' Instead she stayed and finished third in the 100, an eyelash behind Gail Devers and Merlene Ottey. She was gracious that night, grateful to get a medal. The bad times that had flared between Torrence and Devers at Barcelona were put in the past. Now they were pals, embracing as they took a victory lap.
The bronze was nice, but Torrence had her mind on something else -- the 400 relays. She had anchored the gold medal relay team in Barcelona and wanted desperately to repeat. ``We were really determined,'' she said. ``We wanted to come here and show it's going to be hard for anyone to try and beat the USA.'' The team went to North Carolina and trained hard. When it came time for Saturday's finale, it was ready, prepared by the structure of the camp. Overlooked in the soap opera that surrounded the men's 400-meter relay team, the women went to work.
``Training camp set the tone,'' Torrence said. ``It was mandatory. If you didn't want to be part of the team, you didn't go. We knew that from the beginning.''
And with the games in Atlanta, Torrence wanted to be on the team. Chryste Gaines ran the first leg in 11.57 seconds. Devers, replacing Carlette Guidry, who ran in the first heat, took the handoff and established a lead with a 10.03 split. Inger Miller maintained the lead in 10.38 and then handed the baton to Torrence.
And there, before the home fans, the runner who grew up in the projects streaked past the finish line in a blistering 9.97. ``Gail made my job easy,'' she said. ``She got the lead and Inger held on to it. I'm very excited for us. We are as one.
``This is just fantastic. I've had more than I've asked for.'' It was the fourth straight 400-relay gold for the United States women and the ninth in 16 Olympic games. For Torrence, though, it was the first in Atlanta.
(HAL BOCK, AP Sports Writer at The Gate Home Page)
"She's not very trusting of people," says Bahamian sprinter Pauline Davis, a close friend. "Me, I trust you until you do something. Gwen is just the opposite. She has a wall up. You have to kick that wall down."
Of course, you do not need to take a Dale Carnegie seminar to be a great sprinter. You need speed, and you need stubbornness. Torrence has gobs of both. When she went home to Decatur from college in the summers, she would work twice as hard as any of the football players who hung around town. "You'd always see her running -- in the gym, outside, anywhere," says Henry Harris, a high school and college teammate of Fred Lane's. "You'd see her in the hottest part of the day training on the track, and then you'd see her training later that afternoon. And we'd go, 'Damn, Gwen's goin' somewhere.'"
The first place she went after college was the world track and field circuit, where she has left some indelible spike marks. Since 1990 she has won more world-championship and Olympic medals than any other athlete in her sport. During one three-year stretch she won 49 straight races. She has also made more enemies than most people have socks.
Right out of the chute, 1991: Torrence goes to the World Championships in Tokyo and wins two silvers; both golds go to Germany's Katrin Krabbe. Only who should fail a drug test later? Krabbe. Did they give Torrence Krabbe's two golds the way they gave a gold to Carl Lewis when Ben Johnson proved to have been juiced up at the Seoul Olympics? No. (Krabbe did not test positive until after the World Championships.) A lousy start to things.
(Sports Illustrated)
Over the course of her career, Torrence had become known for her outspokenness; she was not a people-pleaser, and admitted to Karen Springer in Newsweek that she was often "frosty" to other athletes, fans, or even her husband. Although she occasionally wished she had the same gracious personality as famed track athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, "I don't," she told Springer. And her husband, Manley Waller, added, "She don't put on no phony act."
Torrence quit competing after the 1997 season. She now lives in Lithonia, Georgia, where she is finally living her long-held dream of working as a hair stylist and raising her two children, Manley Jr. and E'mon.
(sports.jrank.org)

Major Achievements:
1985
*World University Games - Kobe, Japan.
**4 x 100 m relay gold medal
1986
*National Championships
**200 m bronze medal
1987
*Pan American Games - Indianapolis, United States.
**200 m gold medal
**4 x 100 m. relay gold medal
*World University Games - Zagreb, Yugoslavia.
**100 m gold medal
**200 m gold medal
1988
*National Championships
**200 m gold medal
*National Indoor Championships
**55 m gold medal (tied)
1989
*World Indoor Championships - Budapest, Hungary.
**60 m silver medal
*National Indoor Championships
**55 m gold medal
1991
*World Championships - Tokyo, Japan.
**100 m silver medal
**200 m gold medal
*National Championships
**100 m silver medal
**200 m silver medal
*National Indoor Championships
**60 m silver medal
1992
*1992 Summer Olympics - Barcelona, Spain.
**200 m. gold medal
**4 x 100 m relay gold medal
**4 x 400 m relay silver medal
*National Indoor Championships
**60 m silver medal
1993
*World Championships - Stuttgart, Germany.
**100 m bronze medal
**200 m silver medal
**4 x 100 m relay silver medal
**4 x 400 m relay gold medal
*National Championships
**100 m silver medal
**200 m gold medal
1994
*1994 Goodwill Games - Saint Petersburg, Russia.
**100 m gold medal
**200 m gold medal
**4 x 100 m. relay gold medal
*National Indoor Championships
**60 m gold medal
**200 m gold medal
1995
*World Championships - Gothenburg, Sweden.
**100 m gold medal
**4 x 100 m. relay gold medal
*National Championships
**100 m gold medal
**200 m gold medal
*National Indoor Championships
**60 m gold medal
1996
*1996 Summer Olympics - Atlanta, United States.
**100 m bronze medal
**4 x 100 m relay gold medal
*National Indoor Championships
**60 m gold medal
**200 m gold medal
1997
*National Indoor Championships
**60 m silver medal
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