Youth Sports

Young athletes inspired by old gold medal

Richard Stebbins with, from left, Christin Facey, Teoana Banton and Shomari Pettigrew.
Richard Stebbins with, from left, Christin Facey, Teoana Banton and Shomari Pettigrew. Special to the Miami Herald

Richard Stebbins, some 52 years ago, won a gold medal as a member of the United States’ 4x100 relay team in the Olympics.

That medal is one of the most important possessions in his life, thus he keeps it in a locked box in his home.

He doesn’t take it out often, but as usual in life, there are exceptions.

When there are kids around, Stebbins, now 71, just can’t resist. He takes the medal out of the lockbox and puts it in his pocket and makes sure the young people get to hold it, touch it, feel it. In other words, savor it. By doing that, he feels as though he can do something good for the youth of America.

The gold medal is a means for Stebbins to put the idea of hard work and achievement in young heads.

He is able to show them what determination can accomplish.

In other words, the medal might be “real gold,” but for Stebbins what he can accomplish with that gold is the real goal.

During the Northwest Express Track and Field Classic that concluded its three-day run Sunday at Ansin Sports Complex in Miramar, Stebbins was allowing kids to see the results of hard work – in his case, that Olympic medal.

The reactions varied, but always there was a whole bunch of awe involved by anybody of any age.

▪ Teoana Banton, an 11-year- old who is the defending national champion in the 100, 200 and 400 at the Junior Olympics: “Touching the gold medal made me feel like I want to be in the Olympics. It makes me feel like I can take on any challenge.”

▪ Christin Facey, a 10-year- old who runs the 100, 200 and 800: “I’d like to have a gold medal some day. I’m sure I’ll make it to the Olympics. I’m really fast. Fastest in the whole fourth grade.” She’s not just bragging. Christin was a national Junior Olympics champion in the 1,500 meters when she was an 8-year-old.

▪ Shomari Pettigrew, an 11-year- old who also competed in the Junior Olympics: “I really like track and I got to go to Detroit and Canada because of track.” That said, there was one special thing that Pettigrew wanted pointed out. “I’ve never lost to a girl,” he proudly declared.

All three of the mini-athletes run for the Alpha Elite Track Club out of Pembroke Pines, and even their coaches were impressed by the gold medal.

Christopher Facey, 45 and the head coach, said, “Seeing it was breathtaking … just to have the opportunity to feel the medal and meet Mr. Stebbins. It lets you learn what it takes to get to that level.”

His assistant coach, Elvis Morris, 49, who ran for Miami Carol City in high school, said that seeing the medal also inspired him.

“I feel like I should run a 400-meter right now,” he said after holding the medal. “I feel a burst of energy going through my body.”

Stebbins, after showing the medal to people, particularly kids, always feels a sense of pride. Almost as much pride as when he won it long ago in the Tokyo Olympics. Ever since, the medal has served a most-important purpose to him.

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” Stebbins said, “and the gold medal is the picture. And when the kids see that picture it comes with words.”

Those words would be coming out of Stebbins’ mouth and center around hard work, dedication and big dreams, and what those attributes can achieve.

How valuable is that medal to Stebbins? Would he sell it for a million dollars?

“It’s extremely valuable to me,” he said, “because of what I can do with it. What I can teach kids with it. No, I would not sell it for a million dollars.”

Is he afraid that he might lose it?

“No, not going to happen,” he said firmly.