Feature10 Mar 2014

Calvin Smith provides family with second helpings of world records


Calvin Smith takes the baton from Kind Butler in the 4x400m at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot (© Getty Images)

Calvin Smith was still waiting for the family welcome into the world record breakers’ club as he left the track in the Ergo Arena, having brought a momentous conclusion to the three days of the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot.

The man who brought home the baton for the US men’s 4x400m relay quartet in a world indoor record* time of 3:02.13 had yet to receive a congratulatory telephone call from his famous father. “I always speak to him before races,” Smith said. “He gives me advice.

“It feels good to get into the world record books like he did. I know he had a world record in the 100m and the 4x100m. And now we’ve got two world record breakers in the family.

“Oh man, I look up to him and how he ran. I’m just proud to hold the Smith name up to where my dad had it.”

So that makes two Calvin Smiths in the record books.

The younger prefers to call himself Calvin Smith II rather than Calvin Smith Junior.

“Just because, ever since I was little, when somebody called me 'junior,' my dad would correct them and say it was actually 'second',” he said by way of explanation.

At 26, Calvin II had already followed his father into track and field posterity as a gold medal winner on the global stage. At the 2012 World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, the University of Florida sociology graduate ran the second leg for the victorious US 4x400m relay team.

At the 2014 World Indoor Championships, he ran an assured anchor leg, clocking a quick 45.12 split, to bring the US quartet – which also comprised individual 400m bronze medallist Kyle Clemens, David Verburg and the delightfully named Kind Butler III – home comfortably inside the official 3:02.83 world record set by the US at the 1999 Championships in Maebashi. (A US team of Kerron Clement, Wallace Spearmon, Darrold Williamson and Jeremy Wariner clocked 3:01.96 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 2006 but was not ratified because the full anti-doping procedure required for ratifying records was not carried out at that meeting).

Calvin I made his first entry in the world record books at Colorado Springs in July 1983, clocking 9.93 for the 100m. In doing so, he broke an iconic record that had stood at 9.95 to Jim Hines since the Mexico City Olympics of 1968.

At the inaugural IAAF World Championships in Helsinki later that summer, Smith won the 200m, finished second behind Carl Lewis in the 100m and was a member of the world record-breaking US 4x100m quartet.

The following year, he won Olympic gold in Los Angeles as part of another US world record-breaking 4x100m team. In Rome in 1987, he successfully defended his World Championship 200m crown.

Calvin II was born in December 1987, nine months before his father won Olympic 100m bronze in Seoul, promoted to third behind Lewis and Linford Christie in the revised result after the disqualification of Ben Johnson. He is more than happy to carry his father’s name on the modern-day global track circuit.

“It feels good to have my dad’s name because everybody either 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.

“I don’t see it as an extra pressure. For the most part I just try to think about my own thing, because my dad was a 100m and 200m guy and I’m in the 400m. It’s different races.”

Calvin I is now 53 and lives close to him in Atlanta. “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 and I just kind of fell in love with track and started running.

“I always 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.”

Which, on Sunday, was to put the Calvin Smith name back in the world record book.

Simon Turnbull for the IAAF

*subject to the usual ratification procedures

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