Phillips recalls his time at Olympics

Forty-seven seconds before a gold medal was a feeling of nausea. That’s what Principal Andre Phillips recalls about the moments before the race that brought him to glory 30 years ago at the 1988 Summer Olympics in South Korea.

The Winter Olympics will be returning to that country starting next week.

Despite the nausea he felt at the starting block, Phillips was actually welcoming of these feelings.

“You have to be nervous, because if you’re not nervous then something’s wrong. It means you don’t have a passion for it.”

On a more relatable level Phillips compared his emotions to a student’s emotions on the day of a big test. He said, “Even if you know you’re going to ace your test, you’ll still walk in with a little bit of nerves.”

Even though it’s been years since his 400 meter hurdle race, Phillips says he would do it all over again if he had the chance.

“For me, there’s nothing like competing, getting a lane where it’s just you and the rest of the runners,” he said. “It’s just you against them, validating how long and hard you’ve practiced.”

The road to the Olympics was nowhere close to easy, he said. “For one of the Olympics, we weren’t able to go since the president boycotted. Another time, I didn’t make the team because I missed the qualifications.”

It was always a dream since a young age for him to go compete in the Olympics.

“From the time I was 16, I knew I wanted to go to the Olympics.”

At that age, he had even qualified to participate in the Summer Olympic trials.The first step in accomplishing his dream was to have a qualifying time.

“Once you have a qualifying time, you are invited to the Olympic trials.”

During the Olympic trials, he went through a series of races, competing against the best runners in the United States.

“After that, they pick the top three that get to go compete in the Olympics for the United States.”

Once he made it to the Olympics, things changed for Phillips. During his journey, he looked up to Edwin Moses as an inspiration. Moses was the premier runner for the United States team, and also the favored winner. Now, Phillips made it his goal to beat the man he had looked up to.

He went into his final race full of confidence, believing he had an actual chance at winning.

“I told myself, ‘Okay, I have a really good shot at winning the race. Whoever beats me is going to have to really run because I felt really good after the semifinals.”

All of his practice and dedication had finally been put to the test. The gunshot was heard by the runners, to which they ran as fast as they could. Phillips came out on top, finishing the race milliseconds before the runner-up.

“The very first thing I thought was that I beat Edwin Moses,” said Phillips. Never once had he beaten Moses in a race. “And then I realized that I also won the gold medal.”

Even though the race was years ago, he says, “I remember the race like it was yesterday.”

Surprisingly, not even he is the only one who remembers the race as he still gets fan mail to this day.

“So many years after the Olympics, I’m surprised people still remember me.”