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Sprinter Hopes to Emulate Her Heroine by Winning Olympic Gold Medal

July 16, 1996

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) _ Carlette Guidry doesn’t often express her feelings.

``I like to internalize,″ the sprinter said. ``I like to keep things inside me.″

But this is a special time for Guidry _ she’s competing in her second Olympics _ so she’s making an exception.

What Guidry would like to do is win a gold medal, like her heroine Wyomia Tyus did in the 100 meters at the 1964 and 1968 games. Guidry won’t do it in the 100 because she failed to qualify at the U.S. trials, but she won the 200 with a personal-best time of 22.14 seconds.

``Even though I have the best time in the world in the 200 this year, I don’t think I’m going into the games as the favorite,″ Guidry, 27, said. ``That’s fine with me.″

If not the favorite, she’ll be among them, along with Jamaicans Juliet Cuthbert and Merlene Ottey, the 2-3 finishers at the ’92 Games, and Russia’s Irina Privalova, who was fourth.

Guidry, in her Olympic debut in 1992, was fifth, while Gwen Torrence, the Barcelona champion, failed to make the U.S. team in the 200.

Guidry originally began thinking about being an Olympian when she was a first-grader in Houston. While watching the Wilma Rudolph story on TV, she told her mother, ``I want to do that.″

The late Rudolph overcame polio, scarlet fever and pneumonia as a youngster to win three gold medals at the 1960 Games _ in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 400 relay.

Rudolph was a member of Ed Temple’s Tigerbelle teams at Tennessee State. So was Tyus.

``When I saw Wyomia and the Tigerbelles on TV, I knew I wanted to be an Olympian,″ Guidry said. ``My mother bought me books _ biographies about Afro-American women. She put them in front of me and it was up to me to decide what to do with my life.″

Guidry chose track.

``There was something about watching Wyomia Tyus and reading about her that excited me,″ Guidry said. ``Wilma played a big part, too, but I was more into Wyomia.

``I could relate more to her because I didn’t have to overcome an illness like Wilma did.″

Guidry also is an alternate on the women’s 400-meter relay team. She won golds in that event at the 1992 Games and the 1995 world championships and calls this ``an inspiring time.″

That’s why she’s becoming more open with her thoughts.

``I tend to pull them out when I have something I want to achieve,″ she said. ``This is what I want to do _ win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event. If I win the gold medal, I would love to meet Wyomia. I’ve never met her.″

Another influence on Guidry’s career was her late uncle Vincent Sonnier. He was a good athlete, and Guidry wanted to emulate him.

She followed him around and says her uncle steered her away from what she called ``the wrong crowd.″

Two other important people in her life have been Terry Crawford, Guidry’s coach at Texas and the 1988 U.S. Olympic women’s team coach, and Bev Kearney, the present women’s coach at Texas and Guidry’s personal coach.

Under Crawford, Guidry won eight NCAA titles.

``She has a great competitive spirit that pushes her to the finish line ahead of others,″ Crawford said. ``She’s got a tremendous amount of natural power and speed. Those are things you can’t coach into great sprinters.″

Kearney has instilled a lot of confidence into Guidry.

After Guidry failed to make this year’s team in the 100, Kearney told her ``to keep focusing on the positive and not the negative.″

That’s what the two have been doing since last October when Guidry began preparing herself to make the team.

``This completes a goal since I started running those 400s on the grass last fall,″ she said. ``All that hard work paid off. Bev knew what she was doing. Here I am in July and I’m on the team.″

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