Todd Williams isn’t listed among the pantheon of great American Olympians, but he was an Olympian nonetheless, and a competitive one at that. A 10,000-meter specialist on the track, Williams finished 10th at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. Years later he’s donated one of the only tokens of his experience to his alma mater in hopes of inspiring the next generation of great runners from the area.
Williams donated the jersey he wore during his races in Barcelona, framed alongside a picture of himself as part of Team USA, to Monroe High School, where Williams first starred on the track. He told the Monroe News, from Monroe, Mich., that he was happy to donate the uniform as it was previously sitting in his garage unused or displayed.
“it was just sitting in my garage,” Williams told the Monroe News. “I thought, ‘Where could I put it to inspire as many people as I can?’ Monroe High School, Coach (Dave) Bork and the people of Monroe are what made me succeed.
“I told to Coach Scoles (current Monroe High track and cross country coach Mark Scoles) and he loved the idea. He thought it would be a great way to inspire a lot of kids.”
That inspiration is a major motivator for Williams today. Now an Asics representative, he also qualified for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, but burned out in a semifinal heat and used the experience as a learning point to direct his future life.
“It was the best that I could do on that day,” he said. “When I get a chance to inspire and motivate next the generation of runners, I tell them that they can’t base what they do on taking first place every day. You just have to be doing something every single day that makes you better. You have to figure out what is your gold medal.”
If one Monroe student athlete can take that message away from looking closely at an actual Olympic uniform, Williams will feel both relieved and vindicated, with his own past struggles providing perspective for a younger talent. That’s a testament to the Olympic legacy in itself.