MONTGOMERY, Ala. | Alabama State associate head track and field coach Garfield Ellenwood II will be trading in the Black & Gold for the next few days, and donning the red, white, and blue to represent the United States of America as he coaches one of the elite track and field athletes in the country.
It is not the first time that Ellenwood has donned the colors of the USA, making his fifth trip to the Olympic Games in his career. He coached in 2004, 2008 (head coach of the Liberian National Team), 2012, and 2016 prior to this year searching for his first trip to the medal stand.
“It’s an honor every time,” Ellenwood said. “I am blessed to have the opportunity to do things that I love and to be at the Olympics. I am honored that Christina (Clemons) trusted me to be her coach, and I want to help her reach her goals and get on the medal stand. As a coach, I have been so close and it would be awesome to get on the medal stand with her after everything she has been through.”
The third-year Hornet has been with Clemons long before he arrived at Alabama State, helping her reach a ranking of seventh in the world before an injury and the cancellation of the Olympics due to COVID-19 in the summer of 2020.
“Having the games pushed back a year was a bit of a blessing,” Ellenwood said. “It gave her time to get completely healthy after her injury. We went from preparing physically to staying engaged mentally because things were being pushed back and just the uncertainty.
“I just kept her encouraged during the down time, and when you look back on it, God gave her an extra year to rest. She was healed more when the Trails came around, and it allowed us to train harder so her body wouldn’t break down. The hardest part of training while you are injured is overcompensating and that is what we were careful of during training.”
Clemons, a collegiate star at Ohio State, ruptured her Achilles in 2013 and wasn’t healthy enough in 2016, before having to wait another year in 2020.
“I’m just so happy,” Clemons told NBC after qualifying for the Olympics. “I’m ready. My teammates, we go so hard every race. This year was different because we didn’t get to knock heads like usual, so being here (Trials) was the most competition we have had. I’ll be ready, we’ll be ready.”