Bernard Williams

Catching up with Bernard ‘Hollywood’ Williams

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Two-time Olympic sprint medalist Bernard “Hollywood” Williams is still going at age 36.

He clocked 10.51 seconds in the 100m at the Florida Relays on Friday. That’s well off his personal best, 9.94, set in 2001, but Williams has much more on his mind than fast times these days.

He’s best known for being part of the Olympic champion U.S. 4x100m relay team at Sydney 2000, and its scrutinized celebration, and as the silver medalist in the U.S. sweep of the 2004 Olympic 200m, a race known for what happened before the gun went off.

OlympicTalk recently caught up with Williams to reflect on his career and discuss his new ventures.

OlympicTalk: Why are you still running at age 36?

Williams: The thing about track and field is this — once you win medals and you get toward the end of your career, you have to make a certain transition. For me, I wasn’t finished running. I had a certain talent, but I had to find the means to support my family. That’s what got me into coaching.

I now use running to send a positive message. I put my races on YouTube to let my kids know you can do it as long as you want if you do it clean. It feels good to run now and not worry if your contract is going to get cut or if you don’t medal.

OlympicTalk: Who were your favorite competitors?

Williams: [2003 world 100m champion] Kim Collins and [2004 Olympian] John Capel. Kim Collins and I, we used to race against each other in junior college, and then we raced each other at the university level and then for 10 years on the pro circuit. He was a true champion. After our races, we would hang out in different countries, learn the language and the culture.

Capel [a 2004 Olympic teammate and University of Florida wide receiver] was tough. He came off that football field with that football strength.

OlympicTalk: Where do you keep your Olympic medals?

Williams: The 2000 gold is in a safe deposit box in Florida [where Williams went to college and formerly trained], and the 2004 silver is in a safe deposit box in Maryland [where Williams grew up and currently lives].

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OlympicTalk: What are you doing now, in addition to sprinting?

Williams: I started working as a sports performance coach at API Athletic Performance Inc., four years ago. I started my own business, Bernard Williams Pro Techniques. I teach kids how to run correctly, and I call colleges for them [his pupils have advanced to Clemson and Boston College, among other schools].

I also write songs and post them on YouTube.

OlympicTalk: You were a noted stand-up comic even during your Olympic years with the stage name “Hollywood.” Do you still do comedy?

Williams: Maybe seven times a month. I’ve been doing it since 2001. In the past, I would go to the track to work out, and then at night I would go to the comedy clubs. Sometimes I wasn’t funny. They booed. But from 2001-13 I’ve been a paid feature in New York, Florida and Hollywood, and I’ve been on television, a reality show with Chilli from TLC.

The comedy is something I like to do for the passion, not for the money necessarily. I like to make rooms of people laugh. It’s an adrenaline rush.

OlympicTalkUsain Bolt was just beginning his rise during your prime. What do you remember about a young Bolt?

Williams: I first saw him in 2003-2004. It’s weird because when I see him on TV now, he’s posing and doing things. I’m looking at him like that’s not what he used to do. He never did those things before the race. He would be nervous like anyone else, no posing, no facial expressions, no nothing for at least four years from 2004 to 2007.

He was humble. If I didn’t have a physio, he would allow me to use his physio even though we were competitors. His favorite words were “no worries.”

OlympicTalk: The 2000 Olympic 4x100m relay team (Jon DrummondBrian Lewis, Williams and Maurice Greene) was criticized for its victory celebration. How do you look at that incident now?

Williams: Fourteen years later, I can respond in a more articulate way with what was going on and how it happened. In 2000, when we took the victory lap, we didn’t know that we were out of line. I was a big fan of wrestling, WWF and The Rock, so when the crowd in Australia wanted more from us, I said OK. I posed here, took pictures, posed there, took more pictures. I didn’t realize it had been 10 minutes, and we’re still posing, giving the crowd what they want.

Once we got to the back, one of the journalists asked, “Do you feel you were out of line?” We replied, not really because we just won a gold medal for our country, and they [the journalists] didn’t like that.

During this time you have veterans, people who have sweat blood and tears for this country, who had opinions. Once you’ve got people like that making comments, you have to have an apology, telling them you were there showing emotion. We weren’t out there to disrespect anybody. We were proud.

source: Getty Images
Bernard Williams (center) and the U.S. 4x100m relay team continued their eye-catching celebration on the medal stand in Sydney in 2000. (Getty Images)

The very next year, 9/11 happened. Everybody was wearing American flags on their heads, just like I did the previous year. No problems. No interviews. No hate mail. I said, you know what, I’m going to continue to keep being me. I continued to pose and make people laugh my whole career.

If I could do it all over again, the celebration would have been done in a different way. It definitely wouldn’t be as long. I’m older now, more mature. I’m aware of who’s watching and people’s feelings and people who have died for this country.

OlympicTalk: In 2004, the headlines were about what happened before your Olympic race. You won silver in the 200m, but it was delayed by the Greek crowd protesting the suspension of 2000 Olympic 200m champion Kostas Kenteris for infamously missing a pre-Olympics drug test.

Williams: As soon as they started booing, the only thing I could think of was, OK, here we go again [memories of the backlash over the 2000 Olympic celebration].

It was weird. The whole crowd, we’re talking over 100,000 people. I knew it wasn’t directed toward me. It was directed toward other people, like, hey, you won’t let our guy run.

I had a smile on my face when they were booing. When we crossed the line 1-2-3 [a U.S. sweep with Shawn Crawford, Williams and Justin Gatlin], we shook hands, and it was cool. That victory lap, I really didn’t like it. I didn’t have fun, but I did it respectfully. I wanted to show people I could conduct myself in a more self-sufficient manner [than in 2000]. It was another form of trial and tribulation.

OlympicTalk: How do you look back on your era, seen as one of the dirtiest in the history of sport?

Williams: Even I had a mistake. I had a party drug, marijuana [and failed a drug test]. They said, OK, you’ve never tested positive for any banned substance before, and they gave me a warning [in August 2004, which allowed him to run in Athens]. That was a blessing. What I took from that was I cleaned up, made myself pure. I was always clean [from a PED standpoint], but I wasn’t pointing the finger at people who did steroids. I’m not a hater. I’m not clean as the board of health, either. Everybody makes mistakes.

I look back on that era as another era that was similar to the one before. I did my homework. I knew about Linford Christie [1992 Olympic 100m champion banned for drugs in late 1990s], Ben Johnson [stripped of gold at 1988 Olympics].

My era is considered bad because of the amount of stars it involved. Personally, I think the Ben Johnson steroid case was bigger than my era. It brought a lot of knowledge to the world about steroids. It kind of opened the world’s eyes. I don’t think any era was more dirty than any other era.

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Mikaela Shiffrin races for another reindeer

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Mikaela Shiffrin already has three Olympic medals. She can win her third reindeer on Saturday.

Shiffrin headlines the first slalom of the World Cup season in Levi, Finland, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming via NBC Sports Gold’s Snow Pass.

The first run is at 4:15 a.m. ET. The second is at 7.

The traditional (and unconventional) winner’s prize in Finland is a reindeer. Shiffrin captured the Levi slalom in 2013 and 2016, naming her furry friends Rudolph and Sven.

The reindeer stay in Finland while Shiffrin criss-crosses Europe and North America on the World Cup tour.

Shiffrin lost in her trademark discipline in Levi last fall to a new rival, Petra Vlhova of Slovakia.

Motivated, Shiffrin won the next six slaloms before skiing out of the last slalom before the Olympics. Then in PyeongChang, Shiffrin shockingly finished fourth in defense of her Sochi Olympic title (after a giant slalom gold and before a super combined silver).

She bounced back, winning the last two World Cup slaloms of the 2017-18 season.

In the past, Shiffrin voiced a goal of winning every slalom in a season. She won all but three each of the last two years. Levi is the first of 12 World Cup slaloms this season.

Shiffrin must overcome the three women who made the PyeongChang podium ahead of her — Swede Frida Hansdotter, Swiss Wendy Holdener and Austrian Katharina Gallhuber.

She has already shown strong form, taking third in the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, three weeks ago.

Nothing but a third reindeer will suffice in Saturday’s slalom, though.

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Gracie Gold wants to be new skater in comeback event; TV/stream schedule

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When Gracie Gold was in treatment for anxiety, depression and an eating disorder last year, she received a message from two-time Olympian Jeremy Abbott.

“If you ever want to come back to skating, I want to do an exhibition piece for you as a gift,” Abbott, who has taken up choreography in retirement, told his friend. Gold said it was a sweet offer and thanked him.

“At that point I don’t think that she had thought about coming back at all,” Abbott said last week.

Several months later, Gold had thought it over. She contacted Abbott in the spring.

“I’m going to make a go at this. Would you be willing to do my programs?” Abbott recalled Gold telling him. “I was shocked,” Abbott continued, “but also, at the same time, I was not.”

Gold, a two-time U.S. champ who finished fourth at the 2014 Olympics, competes this week for the first time since the January 2017 U.S. Championships. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of Rostelecom Cup from Moscow.

Day Time (ET) Event Network
Friday 6 a.m. Men’s Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
8 a.m. Rhythm Dance NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
10:30 a.m. Pairs’ Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
12 p.m. Women’s Short NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
Saturday 5:30 a.m. Men’s Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
7:30 a.m. Free Dance NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
9:30 a.m. Pairs’ Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
11:30 a.m. Women’s Free NBC Sports Gold | STREAM LINK
Sunday 12 p.m. Highlights NBC | STREAM LINK

Gold, who detailed her last two years in a video published a month ago, is refraining from more interviews until after she skates. Abbott choreographed both her short and long programs, making a few trips to her Pennsylvania training base in the last six months. Gold is coached by former French skater Vincent Restencourt.

“She told me that she wanted to be a new skater and a new Gracie,” Abbott said. “She said that she always admired the artistry that I had and that she really wanted to bring something new to her skating.”

Abbott said her program music choices — “I Put a Spell On You” and “She Used to Be Mine,” the latter from the Broadway musical “Waitress” — reflect the new Gold. The former is “a little more mature and a little more sexy and playful than anything she’s done in the past.” The latter speaks to how she got from there to here in the last two years.

“At one point, she was on top of the world and had everything at her feet,” Abbott said. (Gold has said she spiraled psychologically after squandering a short-program lead at the 2016 Worlds and missing the podium altogether.) “Then she had some really big struggles and had to really step back from the life that she knew. Now she’s having to rebuild herself. It’s kind of looking back at who she was and who she used to be and now where she is and who she wants to become.”

Gold made it clear to Abbott whom she wanted to become.

“She was like, ‘I always was viewed as a jumper and not a skater. I always wanted to be an artist, but everyone told me stick to what you’re best at,'” Abbott said. “Working with her, she is an artist. She is sensitive. She understands the music. She gets it.”

Abbott visited Gold once this fall for choreography touch-ups and will not be in Moscow with her and Restencourt. Rather, he will be performing in 1984 Olympic champion Scott Hamilton‘s show in Nashville on Sunday.

Abbott doesn’t know how Gold is handling the comeback nerves or what to expect of her jumps.

“This isn’t like a big massive coming-out party for her,” he said. “This is really just the first step to get her feet back under her, get her going again because the plan isn’t about this competition. The plan isn’t about this season. The plan is really about building for her future and the next four years.”

The field is led by Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, fellow Russian Sofia Samodurova and Japanese Yuna Shiraiwa, all 16-year-olds with a chance to make December’s exclusive, six-skater Grand Prix Final.

This is Gold’s lone competition until the new year. Many will watch and wonder how she stacks up among Americans heading into January’s national championships. (Two U.S. women are ranked in the top 30 in the world this season, with many big names sitting out the fall.)

“From where her life was, I think it takes some major balls to even put herself back into this situation,” said Abbott, who noted that when he first visited Gold in the spring, she had her double jumps back. “For where she came from, she’s made huge strides. It’s really been impressive to watch her growth.”

In the men’s field, double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu is a heavy favorite given the absence of his top rivals, Nathan Chen and Shoma Uno. Canadian Keegan Messing and Russian Mikhail Kolyada are also in the mix to qualify for the Grand Prix Final.

In pairs, Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are the clear favorites on home ice, but Americans Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc carry the intrigue.

They have a great chance at the Grand Prix Final if they can finish second, after taking third at Skate America four weeks ago. Cain and LeDuc rank fourth in the Rostelecom field by best scores this season but are only 4.21 points behind the second-ranked pair.

Russians Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin headline the ice dance. They’re ranked second in the world behind Americans Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue, who clinched their Grand Prix Final spot three weeks ago.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. GO HERE to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season…NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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