The TV blazers this week will get out their Emmy voices and tell
you how these Olympics are all about hopes and dreams. But what
if your hopes and dreams are lying in the Sydney morgue?
What if your name is Glory Alozie, and you're 22, and you're the
second-best woman 100-meter hurdler in the world, and you come to
September all speed and smiles and wedding plans? What if, a week
before the Sydney Games open, your teammate, your fiance, your
life steps out from behind a bus into the grill of a speeding car
and changes all your dresses from white to black?
He was going out for snacks for everybody. Figures. Nigerian
sprinter Hyginus Anayo Anugo, 22, was the kind of guy who rang
most doorbells with his elbow, his arms were so full. "He was
always bringing us presents," says teammate Joan Ekah, who shared
an apartment with Hyginus and Glory in Valencia, Spain, where
they all trained. "He would come home from meets with bags full
of presents. He'd say, 'This blouse is perfect for you, Glory,
and these shoes for you, Joan.'" Life is sweet when you're young,
fast and you've already won your Glory.
They were to get hitched maybe in January. But first came Sydney
and hopes and dreams. A Nigerian runner has never won a gold
medal, but Glory was going to change all that. She'd been on the
heels of American hurdler Gail Devers all year, and with Devers's
knack for Chevy Chase-ing at the Olympics, who knew? As for
Hyginus, he was one of eight men still in training for Nigeria's
4x400 relay team. A few weeks together in Sydney at the greatest
meet in the world with a wedding waiting out there, just past the
tape? How much better can it get?
Except then the Nigerian Olympic Committee decided only six relay
runners would make the trip to Sydney. Hyginus happened to be No.
7. Glory asked members of the committee if he could be flown to
Sydney anyway, to support her, and they agreed. He wouldn't be
allowed to live in the athletes' village, so he would bunk with
her coach in a dorm room in southwest Sydney. He would train with
the team after all and see his fiancee through the race of her
So, on Sept. 7, at about 9 p.m., right after his nightly prayers,
Hyginus, a devout Christian, jumped up off his knees and ran to a
nearby 7-Eleven. Coming back, a bus slowed to let him cross the
street, and he waved and ran. Maybe he forgot how everyone drives
on the left in Australia instead of on the right, like at home.
Maybe he never saw the car that would make him a resident of a
far more silent village.
Glory was a mess, of course. She wanted to go back to Spain and
cry under their bedspread until the Athens Games. She wanted to
sleep, die, pray, anything but run. "She couldn't be left in a
room alone," says her friend, 1984 bronze 4x400 relay medalist
Innocent Egbunike. Glory couldn't bear to march in the opening
ceremonies. And run in the Games? This wasn't a time for games.
What could there be in a race to make her whole again?
Still, her friends begged her. Her coaches whispered to her. Her
agent. Her family. You are so close now. She couldn't sleep.
Would Hyginus be alive if she hadn't stepped in? Back in Nigeria,
Hyginus's father hadn't been told about his son's death. He'd
suffered a stroke two weeks before, and his family worried the
news would finish him. Wouldn't Glory's running draw a lot of
attention and force their hand?
She agonized. She's so small, only 5'1" in spikes, 115 pounds,
with a tiny voice and big, chocolate-coin eyes. She must have
looked down that row of hurdles and wondered how she could
possibly lift her heart over them.
"It took lots and lots of prayer and talk," says Ekah, but four
days after the accident, there Glory was, sitting on the team
bus, waiting to go to practice, holding her Bible. She's back at
speed, looking strong, until her legs stop and that little voice
tries to talk about it. Then she just swallows and walks away.
"She decided she will race for God's glory," says Egbunike. "She
will give it her all. If she wins, she'll dedicate it to her
Hyginus, whom she loved so much."
The media will blather on about Olympic courage and strength, but
they can't know what Glory will require this week. They don't
really know about hurdles. And they can't imagine what it will be
to line up in the race of your life, suddenly running
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA