By Curt Yeomans
Gregory Meghoo can still recall the exact day he won the silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles as a member of Jamaica's 4 x100-meter relay team. It was his 19th birthday - Aug. 11, 1984.
Meghoo made another trip to the Olympics as a member of Jamaica's relay team in 1988, during the games in Seoul, Korea, but the team finished fourth. Since then, he has left the sport as a competitor, and gone into the business of protecting other people.
In March of this year, Meghoo, now 43, joined the 14-person Clayton State University Police Department as one of its officers. Clayton State Police Capt. Rex Duke, the deputy chief of the university's Public Safety Department, said Meghoo has roughly "a couple more weeks" left in his training period. During the training period, the former tack-and-field star is learning the department's policies and Clayton County's warrant-serving procedures, Duke said.
Duke said it was Meghoo's personality that helped him stand out during the application process. The assistant chief also said the fact that Meghoo was an Olympic medalist did not come up during the interview process, and he did not know about the feat until a month after Meghoo had been hired. "He's very personable, and he seems like he's very level-headed, and that's what we were looking for in an officer," Duke said.
"We wanted someone who's not going to be overly aggressive. Someone who is going to perform his duties, and make an arrest without going overboard," said Clayton State University Police Chief Bobby Hamil.
Being a police officer requires running skills, Meghoo said, but he added that it's nothing like the skill he used to win an Olympic medal. "It's a different type of running," he said. "When I was doing track and field, I was trying to be faster than the other guys on the track, but now I'm chasing after bad guys, and it's a different type of challenge ... It's like I'm running for my life. I've gone from running for sport, to running for my life."
Meghoo's path from being an Olympic medal winner in Los Angeles to being a police officer in Morrow, took him to a second performance at the Olympics Games, to retirement from track and field, to a stint in the U.S. Air Force, to a job as a security guard at an Atlanta hotel. He also served as an officer with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) and with the police department of Fulton County Schools.
But, the story begins with a small silver disk, which hangs from a pink-orange-and-teal-striped ribbon, and rests on a cushion of navy blue felt inside a beat-up, dark blue box with a broken hinge. Meghoo keeps his silver medal, which shows no signs of tarnishing after 25 years, in the same box it came in all of those years ago.
When Meghoo, a native of Ewarton, Jamaica, joined Jamaica's 4x100-meter relay team in 1984, he had just completed high school. In the months leading up to that year's Olympics, the Jamaican runners competed in various, smaller competitions throughout California, so they could get used to running in that state's climate. "Because California has more smog in its air than Jamaica does, we had to get ourselves used to breathing in that," he said.
Meghoo did not see much of the 1984 Olympics opening ceremonies, which took place in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. "We were in the tunnel under the stadium getting ready to come out," he said. He said he was in awe of what he saw, though, when he came into the stadium for the parade of nations. "It's just an amazement to see 90,000-100,000 people watching you."
He and his fellow track and field athletes participated in several training camps during the first week of the Olympics, when the track and field events were not being held. They also spent a lot of time meeting athletes from other countries in the International Olympic Village.
"It's funny because everyone was trying to speak English, so I didn't have to learn how to speak other languages," he said. "That's the great thing about the Olympics. Everybody comes together in peace."
During the relay, Meghoo ran the second leg of the race. The U.S. team, anchored by Olympic medalist Carl Lewis, won the 4x100-meter relay that year. Meghoo once again ran on the Jamaican 4x100-meter relay team in 1988, but the team finished fourth, just 0.03 seconds behind France, which took the bronze medal.
"I was very close to being a two-time Olympic medalist," Meghoo said.
He said he wanted to compete at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, but was working on a master's degree in athletics administration from Michigan State University. He said he elected to focus on his studies rather than pursue another Olympic medal. "I was getting myself ready to work for a living," he said.
For a time after hanging up his cleats, Meghoo was in the Air Force, and is still a member of the Air Force reserves. He left full-time military duty in the late 1990's, and went into security at the Renaissance Atlanta Hotel, and later at CNN. That job eventually led to a two-year job as an officer on the MARTA Police Department, where he often had to chase criminals, and try to not fall off the platform onto the track below.
"I thought since the security department at CNN is just like a small police department, I might as well go to the academy and become a police officer," he said. Then, from 2004-2007, he served with the Fulton County Schools Police Department, where he kept order in schools, and often had to deal with gang-related activities. He left after he injured his wrist while trying to arrest an unruly student.
He then got called up to serve in the Air Force Reserves, which meant he was helping with supply-drop simulations at Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta. When he finished his duties in the reserves, the economy was faltering, and Meghoo decided to turn to his old law enforcement profession to find work.
That is when he saw an advertisement for an opening at the Clayton State Police Department. He said working in an academic environment gives him an opportunity to do the kind of community policing he enjoyed during his time with Fulton County Schools.
"I like the community aspect," he said. "It's not just about kicking in doors, and putting people in jail. You get to build relationships with the people you deal with."