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A big boost from Mom


In a tiny Baltimore rowhouse, a mother has been waiting.

From the lighting of the Olympic torch two weeks ago through the seemingly endless days of tennis, soccer and synchronized swimming that stretched on after, Angela Williams has wrung her hands and waited, prayed and then waited some more.

You see, it's not so simple that her son, Bernard, is in Sydney waiting to run in the men's 4X100 relay. U.S. coach John Chaplin has had her son's name on and off his list of the four who will carry the baton in the finals. And the constant changes have made Williams' heart soar and tumble several times over.

For the United States, winning the relay means yet another victory to pad its tally of medals. For Williams, it's perhaps a way for her and her son to escape their rundown neighborhood just blocks from Baltimore's infamous drug-infested "Corner," where rows of boarded-up and burned-out homes line streets, and children play catch on sidewalks littered with glass from broken windows.

Bernard, 22, graduated from Carver Vocational-Technical High School in 1997 and has since won medals in national and international championships while making one promise to his mother all the way.

"He always says he's going to try and get me out of the ghetto," Williams says, proudly beaming and ever eager to show guests the tall bookcase stuffed with her son's medals and trophies. "He says he's going to get me a big house, but I told him I don't want that. I'm fine with a small apartment."

But the dream of leaving the neighborhood could come true faster if Bernard Williams runs in the relay finals this morning and wins, with the possibility of fame, endorsements and appearance fees not too far behind.

As of yesterday, it seemed certain he would run the final race's second leg. And his mother began holding her breath again.

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