University of Miami women’s basketball coach Katie Meier stopped everything Wednesday afternoon to show her players what hard work and an indomitable spirit look like.
“Interrupted film prep with team to watch @LaurynCwilliams COMPETE,” Meier posted on Twitter. “Brought home the silver. So proud #Inspiration #RoleModel”
Lauryn Williams – former Hurricanes All-American sprinter, NCAA champion in track and field, two-time Olympic medalist and three-time world champion in track and field – won the Olympic silver medal Wednesday in bobsled, and Hurricane fans worldwide no doubt were filled with pride.
“I am so happy for Lauryn,” said UM track and field/cross-country director Amy Deem. “She is an incredible person and this is an incredible story. She is humble and giving and always thinks of others as much as herself. It couldn’t have happened to someone more deserving.”
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Deem was Williams’ coach at UM and the women’s coach for Team USA at the 2012 Olympics in London, where Williams won gold in the 4X100-meter relay. Deem continued to coach Williams, now 30, for years after she graduated in finance from UM in 2004. Williams won the Olympic silver in the 100 meters when she was 20 in ’04 at Athens, setting off Olympic fever in South Florida.
Williams is the first former UM athlete to compete in a Winter Olympics, and second Cane to participate in four Olympics. The first was diver Jose “Chemi’’ Gil (1988, ’92, ’96, ‘00).
Ready to retire from track and field after a stellar career, the high-spirited, intense yet ever-smiling Williams took up bobsledding only six months ago.
She and teammate/driver Elana Meyers entered Wednesday’s final day of competition leading Canada by 0.23 seconds. But the Americans had their slowest run in their fourth and final ride, and were overtaken by a mere tenth of a second by Canadian gold medalists Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse.
Nonetheless, Williams, who repped “the U” during the Olympics with a “UHealth” sports logo on the back of her training helmet in Sochi, as well as by wearing a winter cap with the U on front, appeared exuberant after clinching the silver.
She became the fifth Olympian to medal in both the Summer and Winter Games.
Williams’ fans began furiously tweeting and posting Facebook messages on her page.
“So proud of @LaurynCwilliams!” tweeted Miami athletic director Blake James. “A true champion & incredible rep of the U! Way to go Lauryn, you are an inspiration to all. #Buildingchampions”
“@LaurynCwilliams rockin the @umsportsmed logo on her training helmet in Sochi,” tweeted UM sports medicine doctor Clifton L. Page. “#caneonice #Sochi2014 #It’sAllAboutTheU”
Williams, a Pittsburgh native, has called Miami home for the past 18 years. She previously worked at UM as the athletic department’s life skills and community relations coordinator, and has been known for her volunteer work with the underprivileged.
After winning her first Olympic medal, she volunteered at Arcola Lakes Elementary in Miami helping deaf students learn English and math while they taught her sign language. One Christmas she donated $10,000 to South Florida families whose homes were damaged by hurricanes. Several years ago she set up a scholarship fund to assist emerging female athletes, and was involved in the USA Track & Field’s Be a Champion youth outreach program.
In 2007, USATF named Williams the Visa Humanitarian Athlete of the Year.
Deem said she Skyped with Williams and communicated with her through texts during the Olympics, and sent her the following message just after her final run Wednesday: “Enjoy your moment. You are one of a kind and an inspiration to so many people.”
Deem said she sent that text “right after I knew the results.”
She got her reply from Williams on Wednesday at about 4 p.m. during the interview for this story.
“She’s happy,” Deem said.