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Friday, January 14, 2005

‘World’s fastest man’ speaks at Angel Elite banquet

Nice guys do finish first.

‘World’s fastest man’ speaks at Angel Elite banquet

‘World’s fastest man’ speaks at Angel Elite banquet

Olympic 100-meter gold medallist Justin Gatlin proved it to an audience of young athletes gathered at UNC Pembroke. He spoke at the Angel Elite Sports club annual banquet on January 9.

Gatlin, who trains in Raleigh, N.C., appeared free of charge. At the top of his sport with fame and fortune already in the bank, a very humble athlete had words of advice for an attentive audience.

“Misery loves company .. people want to bring you down,” Gatlin said. “I’m a regular person. I talk to every person who talks to me.”

Gatlin made good on that promise signing autographs and posing for photos with all comers. He dispensed advice on the value of hard work and paying dues.

“Get your education and make your parents proud because they are your foundation,” he said. “I go out every day to dedicate myself to my sport and my fans.”

Asked by a young fan where his gold medal is, Gatlin said “with my parents.”

Angel Elite Sports, which is sponsored by Native Angels Home Care, parents and volunteer coaches, provides Robeson County athletes opportunities to compete at the highest level. Club President Abdul Ghaffar said it is a club on the rise.

“Two years ago we had one basketball team and one track and field performer,” Ghaffar said. “This year we had six basketball teams and 16 in track.”

“I want you all to have a good time and go to school tomorrow and recruit five or six friends,” Ghaffar said.

It was a successful year on the court and on the track for Angel Elite. Three track and field performers, Wynola Cain of Lumberton and Jaynell Brown and Aminah Ghaffar of Pembroke, qualified for the National Junior Olympics. The Angel Elite’s 13-year-old girls basketball team finished second in the North Carolina AAU Eastern Regionals.

“We plan on doubling our membership this year,” Ghaffar said. “We also plan to launch softball this year and baseball next year, but we need more help.”

A number of people coached or helped, including Eva Patterson-Heath, Tim Health and Glen Patterson of Red Springs; Ted Gaskins, Danny Graham and Sam Davis, Rasheeda Ghaffar and Candace Foster of Lumberton; David Leak, Larry Rodgers, Abdul Ghaffar and Tony Chavis of Pembroke; Mike Jimenez of Fayetteville and Ken Spencer of Eagle Springs.

Heath, a former basketball coach at Lumberton High School and husband of Red Springs’ girls coach Eva Patterson-Heath, summed up his feelings.

“This has been a dream of Eva’s and mine for some time,” Heath said. “We want to continue to push for the young athletes of Robeson County to be the best. Robeson is a diamond in the rough.”

Ghaffar thanked Gatlin for appearing and called him “a great, great role model.”

Gatlin is the youngest Olympic 100-meter champion in Olympic history and prevailed in the fastest race in Olympic history. With that win comes the title of “world’s fastest man.”

What does the world’s fastest man do next at age 22, an age when most world-class sprinters have not yet peaked?

“The more successful you are, the more susceptible you are to temptation,” he said. “I was confused for a while because I didn’t have anybody left to beat.”

“Sport is about respect. Whatever you do, stay humble and remember the people who helped you,” he said. “After you climb the ladder of success, you’re going to come down,” he said.

“I have re-enrolled in college,” said Gatlin, who said he left college early to begin a lucrative professional career.

There is one other thing on his list of things to do.

“I am going to get better .. to get the world record,” he said.

More than 100 athletes, ages 10 - 18, attended the Angel Elite’s first appreciation banquet. To learn more about Angel Elite Sports, please call 910.521.1338 evenings.

Angel Elite Sports sponsors Robeson County athletes competing in basketball and track and field.

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