Twins aim to make history at Olympics

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The Independent Online

Alvin and Calvin Harrison hope to make Olympic history in Sydney later this year by becoming the first twins to run in the same relay team.

Alvin and Calvin Harrison hope to make Olympic history in Sydney later this year by becoming the first twins to run in the same relay team.

Alvin, a 1996 Olympian, virtually assured himself a place on the 4x400metre relay team by finishing second in Sunday's 400m final at the United States Olympic trials, behind Michael Johnson. Calvin, the fifth-place finisher in his semi-final heat four years ago, was fifth in Sunday's final, earning an invitation to the US team's training camp in Brisbane.

There is a strong chance he will run in the early rounds of the relay, if not in the final.

"I hope we run in the relay final," Alvin said. "We've run some relays together on a national level, but nothing like the Olympics."

In 1996, Alvin just missed an individual medal at Atlanta, finishing fourth in the 400 final behind Johnson, Britain's Roger Black and Davis Kamoga of Uganda, but won a gold in the relay. He joined Lamont Smith, Derek Mills and Anthuan Maybank to run 2min 55.99sec, the best ever in the United States at that time.

The Harrisons' story before the 1996 trials sounds like fantasy. The two were so poor they were living in an old car. Since then, they have lived conventional lives in California, but have still had bitter experiences.

Less than two months after the 1996 games, their younger sister, 21-year-old Africia, was murdered in Jacksonville, Florida; Calvin suffered foot paralysis in 1997; and their grandmother, who had been greatly responsible for raising the twins, died last year shortly before the American national championships.

"It's been very difficult since missing the 1996 Olympics," Calvin said. "It's hard to separate the emotional priorities of running from your family. Every time we tried to come up, there was something pushing us down."

Alvin felt most guilty about his sister's death having seen her 10 hours earlier and tried unsuccessfully to arrange for a plane ticket back to California for her. "I just destroyed my whole apartment [when I was told of her death] out of anger," Alvin said. "I wonder what would have happened to her if I had gotten that ticket."

They did not compete in 1995 when both were homeless. They ran very few races in 1997 after their sister's death, and they had little competition last year because of their grandmother's passing. Now, however, they are back.

Sandra Glover ran the fastest women's 400m hurdles of the year, 53.33sec, to beat the world record holder, Kim Batten, into second place. The 31-year-old former teacher said "Sorry, Kim, but your record is going down this year."

* America's Marion Jones will race against her compatriot and rival, Inger Miller, in the 100m in the British Grand Prix on 5 August at Crystal Palace.