Smith seeks recognition in the name of his father

One-lap specialist and son of former 100m world record holder ready to show UK audience his talent on track
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The Independent Online

Steadily but surely, Calvin Smith has been making a name for himself. Last year he clocked the 10th fastest time in the world in the 400m, 44.81sec, and managed to achieve something that once proved beyond the fastest man of all-time, Usain Bolt. He beat Tyson Gay, albeit at the upper limit of his fellow American's range – in a 400m race on his home track in Gainesville, Florida.

Smith lines up as the leading entrant for the men's quarter mile at the Aviva Grand Prix at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham tomorrow. The question is: which name is the 23-year-old making for himself?

"Oh, I'm fine with just being called Calvin Smith, but if you're going to pronounce my whole name I'd prefer Calvin Smith II rather than Jnr," he said yesterday. "Ever since I was little, when somebody called me 'junior,' my dad would correct them and say it's actually 'second'."

Smith's father Calvin was one of the biggest names in athletics in the 1980s. At Colorado Springs in July 1983, he clocked 9.93sec for the 100m, breaking the world record that had stood at 9.95sec to Jim Hines since the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Calvin Smith I held the world record for four years – until the steroid-fuelled Ben Johnson ran 9.83 at the World Championships in Rome in 1987 and then 9.79sec at the Olympics in Seoul a year later.

In the aftermath of Johnson's infamous fall from grace in South Korea, where the Canadian sprinter tested positive for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol, the world record and the gold medal passed by default to Carl Lewis, who had finished runner-up in 9.92sec. Smith crossed the line fourth in 9.99sec but was upgraded to third in the amended result, behind Lewis and Linford Christie.

"I feel bad because my dad didn't get the chance to stand on the podium and collect his medal," Calvin II said. "That's a big thing: to get your medal in front of the crowd."

Smith's father maintained he was "the best clean runner" of his generation. He was certainly different: slight of build, with a smooth style, and quiet in demeanour. He was seriously quick, too. At the inaugural World Championships in Helsinki in 1983 he won the 200m, finished second in the 100m and was a member of the world record-breaking US 4x100m relay team. A year later he won Olympic gold in LA as part of another record-breaking relay quartet, and in Rome in 1987 he defended his World Championship 200m crown.

His son is more than happy to carry his name on the modern circuit. "It feels good to have my dad's name because everybody watched him run or heard about him," Calvin II said. "Sometimes when I'm on the track the announcer will say, 'This is the son of the former 100m world record holder'. It just makes me proud, and determined not let down the name."

Smith's father is a social worker in Tampa these days. "He's been a big influence," Calvin II said. "When he was running and I was little, I used to go to the track and play around. I just fell in love with track and started running. I talk to him on the day of a race, before I head to the track. He gives me words of encouragement. He tells me what I need to do."

Tickets and more information about the Aviva Grand Prix at the NIA in Birmingham tomorrow can be found at or on 08000 556 056