Volume 10 Number 1
Long-Distance Sprinter

01 February 1997

Gus Envela Jr believes that too many in public life have stayed on too long.
Gus Envela Jr is on the fast track - though he may not be sure where it is leading him.

The 29-year old citizen of Los Angeles has represented his country, Equatorial Guinea, in four summer Olympics, had featured roles in several movies, been on The Tonight Show and competed on Wheel of Fortune, had trials with three National Football League teams, worked in electoral campaigns, and is in demand as an inspirational speaker.

He even considered a run for Congress himself at this last election, but had to give up the idea, at least for now, when he discovered that as a foreigner he would be ineligible. With the birth of his daughter, Misako, he is glad the idea did not mature, as it would have put too many demands on his family life.

Gus still feels the tug of politics as he has always wanted to bring to the table a fresh perspective. He believes that too many in public life have stayed on too long and become disconnected from average concerns. He would like to see new younger voices in public life and would also like to restore to his generation concepts like fairness and trustworthiness.

He credits his interest in national and world affairs to dinner conversations with his father as he grew up. Born in the former Spanish colony, Gus moved with his family to Oregon when his father, then ambassador to the UN, had to go into exile. In high school Gus was conscious of specific acts of racial prejudice but says his athletic prowess was a buffer against its more virulent expressions. At the same time he is appreciative of the way his family was welcomed and respected.

He has joined a national Call to Community, which furthers honest conversations on racial issues, because he wants the perspective of an African who has grown up in the US to be heard. He believes that Los Angeles is a much more caring and accepting community than it is given credit for and that there should be more focus on its commonalities.

Gus is a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood (the denomination in which his father is a minister) and of the First African American Episcopal Church. It was there that he married his wife, Tomiko, who is of African-American and Japanese heritage. He wants to live his life on moral principles. As one who knows the hours and years it takes to get in shape for Olympic competition he speaks out against the cult of immediate gratification.

In his speeches to groups around the country, particularly younger people, he draws on his experiences to stress the need for perseverance and striking a balance between athletics and academics. He has degrees from Stanford University in political science and in African and Afro-American studies. He warns sports stars to prepare for the day when the cheering stops.

Gus still holds Oregon high school sprinting records and was five times US national champion in the 100, 200 and 400 meters in various age groups. He first represented his country in 1984 when he was 16.

The sprinter expects to run in the Melbourne Olympics, although he concedes he is not a medal contender. He hopes to do what no sprinter has done before, compete in a sixth Olympics in 2004. His autobiography will be published this year. The title, After the Cheering.

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