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09 Aug 1984

Brisco-Hooks completes unique, emotional double

American sprinter Valerie Brisco-Hooks came out of semi-retirement to etch her name indelibly into the record books at the Olympics Games in Los Angeles.

While Carl Lewis was the undoubted homegrown male star of the track, the 24-year-old from Mississippi rose from relative obscurity to become the most successful female.

Brisco had a far from classic route to track and field success. She was first inspired to take up an athletics career by tragedy.

Her brother was killed by a stray bullet whilst warming up on a track not far from the Memorial Coliseum which would stage the showpiece races at the 1984 Games.

She also had a young son with NFL player Alvin Monks, and it was these two factors that spurred her into a relentless training regime that would see her claim the grandest prizes her sport could offer.

From out of nowhere, Brisco-Hooks started to record world class times and claimed victories in the 200m and 400m at the American trials to book her place on the team.

She showed a touch of competitive naivety by blasting out the second fastest time in the qualifying heat in LA before a victory in the semi-final set up a contest against fellow U.S. runner Chandra Cheeseborough.

Running in a central lane with Cheeseborough outside her, Brisco-Hooks ran a scintillating first 300m and appeared to wane at the top of the home straight.

However she had enough in the tank to hold off her rival with Britain’s Kathy Cook grabbing a surprise bronze to foil a U.S. clean sweep. Her time of 48.83secs was an Olympic record.

Three days later and Brisco-Hooks went one better and won the 200m to become the first woman ever to achieve the double. Her victory was even more convincing, edging out team-mate Florence Griffith by two yards in the final in another Olympic record time.

The Americans had such an outstanding quartet of quarter-milers that only a dropped baton stood between them and gold in the 4x400m.

Lillie Leatherwood, fifth in the individual final, and Sherri Howard led out the Americans with Brisco-Hooks providing Cheeseborough with an unassailable lead for the final leg. She brought the team home fully three seconds ahead of the second-placed Canadians with Germany completing the podium.

She never recaptured the heights of that balmy summer in LA but did help the US 400m relay team to a silver four years later in Seoul behind the record-breaking Soviets.

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