Summers spent running through the countryside of Bath likely prepared Terrence Trammell for his summer in Beijing.
Before he became a two-time Olympic silver medalist, the Decatur, Ga., native got his feet wet in grandmother Eloise Dunbar's backyard, said his cousin Haley Dunbar.
"We did a lot of running around," Haley Dunbar said. "We pretended to be the ThunderCats, and he would always be the one running fast. That was his whole thing. He's always been competitive."
Mr. Trammell's competitive edge has helped him make it to the Olympics three times: at Sydney in 2000; Athens, Greece, in 2004; and now Beijing. Tonight, he will compete in the first round of the men's 110-meter hurdles.
Ms. Dunbar said her cousin started in track at Southwest Dekalb High School.
Though his passion was football, colleges showed interest in his track and field abilities, she said, and he received a full scholarship to the University of South Carolina.
He earned several track and field accolades during college and entered the Sydney Olympics months after graduating from USC in 2000.
Eloise Dunbar said her grandson still makes time to visit Bath when he's not competing. When he's involved in a competition, she said, she can't help but be nervous for him.
"I say a prayer for him," she said. "I've been praying for him all along."
Tonight, Mr. Trammell will have the support of his family in South Carolina, and his mother, Ann Trammell, will be waiting in the bleachers in Beijing, his cousin Christa Butler said.
To ease the pressure of tonight's event, Mr. Trammell will probably listen to some Southern hip-hop and say a prayer before he competes, Mrs. Butler said.
"He really wants to take the gold this time," she said. "He told me whenever he hears them cheering for Liu Xiang (his main competitor), he imagines that it's his name they're cheering. He wants to win for his family and for the Gamecocks."
Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tonight: Round 1, 11:10 p.m.
TUESDAY: Round 2, 8:45 a.m.
WEDNESDAY: Semifinals, 9:30 a.m.
THURSDAY: Finals, 9:45 p.m.