SYDNEY, Australia - Bernard Williams sported a new look, courtesy of "The Rock," the professional wrestler. He needed to be as solid as one today, when the U.S. tried to end its frustration in track and field's 400-meter relay.
A 1997 graduate of Carver High, Williams was to run the second leg for the Americans in the Olympic relay final, which was to be contested at 5:05 a.m. Baltimore time.
At 22, he is the youngest member of the U.S. foursome. Before yesterday's semifinals, he loosened up with a pose that featured an arched eyebrow, which was visible to more than 100,000 fans on the giant scoreboards at Olympic Stadium.
"I got it from 'The Rock,' and transformed it into my own," Williams said. "That's something to get me hyped."
American coach John Chaplin had said he worried about Williams' nerves, but the newest member of the elite HSI team in Los Angeles received the baton from Jon Drummond and forwarded it to Brian Lewis without incident.
Maurice Greene, the world-record holder and Olympic champion in the 100, was the American anchor, and that same lineup was to come back in the final.
The U.S. had the fastest time in the semifinals, 37.82 seconds, and it was a heavy favorite for gold.
It was the first time that foursome had raced together. In the interest of team harmony, the American coaches used Kenny Brokenburr and Tim Montgomery instead of Drummond and Williams in yesterday morning's preliminaries. Williams admitted that it made for an Olympic debut that was a bit unnerving.
"I sacrificed some butterflies for other people to get gold," Williams said. "Those are obstacles you have to go through in order to be the best. That was a little hump, and now that we've gotten over that, now we're going to try to go out and win the gold. ... I'm not making any predictions, but I will say Atlanta is gone. It's pride time, baby."
Williams was referring to the 1996 Olympics, when the U.S. took the silver medal behind Canada. The Americans have won the 400 relay just once in the last three Olympics, and there is extreme pressure on the U.S. to win here.
"That was an interesting experience," Williams said after the semifinals. "I was overwhelmed, but it was just like any other track meet, except greater fans, a lot more intensity."