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Reynolds to GSU: Always give it your best

Olympic gold medalist visits Statesboro

    Sure, he’s proud of his Olympic silver medal.
    But every time Butch Reynolds glances at the coveted prize he won nearly two decades ago in Seoul, Korea, he can’t help but think about what could have been. That medal, Reynolds told Georgia Southern students during a visit to campus this week, taught him a lesson he’ll never forget.
    The year was 1988, and the Ohio native was halfway around the world competing in his first of three Olympics. A month earlier, Reynolds shattered a 20-year-old world record in the 400-meter dash with a time of 0:43.29.
    As he prepared for the same event in the Summer Olympics, his heart was beating so hard he thought it was going to leap out of his chest. Once the race started and Reynolds reached the second curve of the track, he peeked at the competition. To his surprise, he was in sixth place with 150 yards to go.
    “So I started moving. I ran as fast as I can run,” he said. “I went from sixth to fifth, fifth to fourth, fourth to third, third to second, and then I ran out of track. I was going to catch No. 1.”
    Reynolds had a tendency to let opponents get ahead early before sprinting to beat them to the finish line. This time, it didn’t work.
    “I got in a bad habit of playing with my talent,” he said. “Instead of taking my talent from A to Z, I used to play with it a little bit because I could. I was just that talented and gifted.
    “But the silver medal taught me a big thing – to give it your best. If I did, I would have had a gold medal. But I got in the habit of not doing my best. Give it your best, and you don’t have to worry about anything. Because when you come up wrong, when you come up unhappy and you know you gave it your best, it cuts out a lot of other work that you are going to have to do to figure out what happened. But if you didn’t give it your best, it might be too late for you.”
    Fortunately for Reynolds, he had another opportunity in Seoul. He was the anchor man in the 4 x 400-meter relay, a role he took so seriously his team beat the field by 100 yards and ended up tying the world record to the hundredth of a second. He was an Olympic gold medalist.
    “Let me tell you — this gold medal looks better and shines better than that silver medal all day long,” he said. “There is no comparing a silver medal to a gold medal. There’s a big difference. There is one gold medal every four years for this particular event, and there are a lot of countries in this world with a lot of people who would love to have this. To have the opportunity to win this for my country is a blessing come true. It’s nothing to be arrogant about, but you can be blessed and very proud about it.”
    Reynolds, currently the speed and nutrition coach for the top-ranked Ohio State University football team, visited Statesboro this week at the request of his friend, Dan Czech, an associate professor in Georgia Southern’s Department of Health and Kinesiology within the College of Heath and Human Sciences. Czech knew his students would benefit from listening to the three-time Olympian, an expert in teaching skills needed for peak performance. Reynolds didn’t hesitate to make the trip.
    “To come down here was a no-brainer,” Reynolds said. “I enjoy trying to give back and teaching some of the experiences I’ve had during a 20-year running career.”
    Reynolds is the only full-time college speed coach in the nation, but his role with the Buckeyes extends much further.     He spends most of his time in the weight room as an assistant strength and conditioning coach and also works with the student-athletes regarding nutrition, the mental aspects of athletic performance, goal-setting, attitude and teamwork. Reynolds said he makes an effort to work with the athletes individually.
    “There’s not one thing that will work for everybody,” he said.
    And when the time is right, Reynolds openly shares his personal experiences, including the valuable lesson he learned that summer in Korea.
    “If I had to do it all over again, I would win every race by 10 yards,” he said.

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.

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