Archive for Wednesday, August 30, 2000

Twin track threats

Harrison brothers want to make Olympic history

August 30, 2000

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— They think, talk, act and run alike and they're making history together.

They're the Harrison brothers Alvin and Calvin the first twins to make a U.S. Olympic track team.

American 400-meter runners and twin brothers Alvin, left, and
Calvin Harrison of Salinas, Calif., swim with dolphins at Sea World
in Australia.

American 400-meter runners and twin brothers Alvin, left, and Calvin Harrison of Salinas, Calif., swim with dolphins at Sea World in Australia.

"We've already made history by being the first twins on the team, now we want to add to it," Alvin said.

They will get that opportunity at Sydney, hoping to run in the 1,600-meter relay final, win gold medals and break the world record.

Alvin is virtually assured a place on the relay team, after finishing second to Michael Johnson in the 400 meters at the Olympic trials in Sacramento, Calif., last month. Calvin was fifth at the trials and he is contending with his brother, plus Johnson, third-place finisher Antonio Pettigrew and fourth-place finisher Jerome Young for a spot in the final.

Even if the brothers don't run in the final, they would still earn gold medals if they run in preliminary rounds on the way to a U.S. victory.

Alvin already has an Olympic gold. He ran the second leg on the winning 1996 team that included Lamont Smith, Derek Mills and Anthuan Maybank and was timed in 2 minutes, 55.99 seconds, the fourth-fastest in history.

Alvin finished third at the '96 trials and fourth in the Olympic 400-meter final, while Calvin was eliminated in the semifinals at the trials.

The relay gold still left Alvin with an empty feeling.

"I couldn't get into my race," he said. "Virtually everything I do, I do with my brother.

"Now, we feel whole."

Calvin agreed, of course.

"We're complete," he said. "This is redemption."

To consider where the identical twins are now and where they were five years ago is remarkable.

In 1995, they were homeless and lived in a Ford Mustang coupe for about three months. At the time, Alvin resided in Orlando, Fla., with his father, and Calvin was living in Salinas, Calif., where the brothers went to high school.

Alvin had just completed working at an assembly line plant when Calvin visited him in his car. Their father wanted them to remain in Florida, but the twins decided to head back to California. That's when the car living began.

"That wasn't such a bad situation," Calvin said. "Not as bad as people think."

"It made our bond stronger because we seemed to be drifting apart then," Alvin said. "We realized we needed each other for what we had planned. We realized that the assembly line wasn't for us. Living in the Mustang was an obstacle we had to overcome. Everyone has to go through hardships and we had ours."

Now, the twins earn their living through track and are in much better financial condition.

"We're living a lot better than in the car," Alvin said.

Calvin has a son, Jarijah, 4, and Alvin has two children a son, Shraee, 2, and a daughter, Shiyah, 6.

The 26-year-olds resemble each other very closely. Calvin can be distinguished by his longer goatee and earrings shaped like the letter "C."

U.S. coach John Chaplin had trouble telling them apart at first, introducing them by their wrong names. The brothers still tease him.

"When he calls one of our names, the other answers," Alvin said.

"If one wins and the other goes to the podium, you'd never know the difference," Chaplin said.

While the twins could fool a lot of people by changing places, they have done it only once. That was in their senior year at Salinas High, where Calvin went to Alvin's English class and Alvin attended Calvin's science class.

This is the second time the brothers have been on an international team together. In 1993, Alvin ran the second leg and Calvin anchored the U.S. team that won the 1,600 relay at the World Championships.

The Olympics are much more special.

"This is the pinnacle of anything we've achieved so far," Alvin said. "Calvin and I are what the Olympic Games are all about unity and brotherhood."

"I feel that way, too," Calvin said.

Spoken like a true twin brother.

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