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Auburn's Olympic Champions Bring Home Medals
AUBURN – Auburn made another strong showing at this summer's Olympic Games in London with 27 current and former student athletes in attendance.
The Auburn contingent had an especially strong international flavor with 12 countries outside the United States being represented. Auburn had six medalists, and of the six, four were representing a country other than the U.S. They included silver medalist Kerron Stewart of Jamaica and bronze medalists Marc Burns of Trinidad and Tobago, Cesar Cielo of Brazil, and Matt Targett of Australia.
Stewart won in the women's 4x100 meter relay sprint, Burns in the 4x100 meter relay sprint, Cielo in the 50 meter freestyle swim and Targett in the 4x100 meter medley relay swim. Interestingly, all four medalists also won medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Stewart, who now lives and trains in Auburn under coach Henry Rolle, discussed her journey from Kingston to Auburn to three Olympic games. She first visited Auburn on a recruitment trip for the track and field team. "I came on a visit, and I liked Auburn, and I liked the culture, so I just decided to come here," she said.
By the time she completed her collegiate career, she had helped Auburn win its only team track and field national championship in the 2006 Women's Outdoor Track and Field Championship, been named the 2007 National Indoor Track Athlete of the Year and won individual NCAA championships in the 60 meter and 200 meter sprints.
Stewart's athletic talent and dedication to training took her to the Athens, Beijing and London Olympics. "They were completely different experiences," Stewart said. "When I went the first time, I did not compete, so I got to watch everything. I got to meet all the athletes. But in 2008 it was all about business. It was more about Kerron and what I had to do."
She feels the 2008 Olympics was the most special for her. It was where she won her first medals, a silver in the 100 meters and a bronze in the 200 meters.
"Being in the Olympics really is a great feeling. It's one that is really hard to put into words," Stewart explained. "I think me being able to go to three Olympics is something very special because not a lot of people can do that. I've been successful, and I feel like I've just been extremely blessed. It's really something I wish a lot of people could get to experience because it's really an awesome feeling."
To train for world-class competition is an intense and even painful experience, according to Stewart.
"I always have to try and encourage myself. I have to tell myself, 'It will all make sense when August or July comes.' To train all those months doesn't make sense to you. I have to keep telling myself that when I'm standing on the podium it will all make sense because it just seems like insanity. But there's no way to get better other than to train hard," Stewart said.
Stewart is part a renaissance for Jamaican sprinters. Led by superstar Usain Bolt, Jamaica won numerous medals in sprinting over the last few summer Olympics, a feat especially impressive for a country of less than 3 million people. She sees the recent success as a direct result of Jamaican sprinters getting much more funding than the past.
"Jamaican athletes are getting a lot more help than they used to get. When you're an American or from those big countries like Great Britain, they get help from their federation, but for the Jamaicans, it was so hard because we never used to get that help. Now a lot more athletes are getting sponsored by different companies, and that makes it a lot easier," Stewart said.
Now everyone will have to wait and see whether or not Stewart will be back for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"I've always said this was going to be my last Olympics, but I'm just going to let God lead me, and He will tell me when it's time," she said.
Last Updated: January 22, 2013