KILLEEN, Texas — Omar Craddock and Darius Fulghum grew up in Killeen and dreamed about taking their talents to the Olympic games one day, together. Craddock, 28, and Fulghum, 23, grew up as family friends and each excelled in different sports.
Craddock attended Killeen High School where he focused on the triple jump. He earned national recognition and eventually earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Florida. While in school, Craddock won several national titles that included a bronze medal at the Track and Field World Championships in Canada in 2010.
Craddock went on to compete in the 2012 and 2016 US Olympic Trials but fell short both times.
"We can blame me being young in 2012 and I had lingering injuries in 2016," Craddock said. "But now I have almost a seniority. I know where I need to be mentally."
Craddock competed in the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru in 2019. This is where he out jumped all his opponents and secured his first gold metal for the United States.
"2019 was my best year yet," Craddock said. "I was finally able to grab that gold metal and bring it home for my country."
Through all of the hard work, as well as heart break, Craddock received endless support from his friends and family.
"I watch my baby fall to his knees and I just wanted to go down there and hug him," Craddock's mother Angela Craddock said. "He told me, 'Mom next time,' and I said, 'Yes baby next time.'"
The 2020 Track and Field Olympic Trials is that "next time," and will determine if Omar Craddock will represent the USA in Tokyo. He only needs to place top-three among the US athletes.
As for Darius Fulghum, he looks up to Craddock as a mentor but does not have that same experience on his side.
The US boxer began the sport five years ago after graduating from Ellison High School, where he was a wrestler.
"I threw away my wrestling career and I needed to find something to feed my competitive hunger," Fulghum said. "I decided to start boxing and I fell in love with it. It's like it was my calling."
Fulghum began training in his garage and eventually took his talents to the national level.
"I would say I am more of a consultant for him," Fulghum's current coach Darnell Pierce said. "Everything he has achieved has been on his own."
Fulghum competed in the US Boxing Olympic Trials and won in December. This means that he is now the country's representative for the heavy weight division but does not punch his ticket to Tokyo.
Fulghum has to place top-three among every country at either the Continental Qualifiers in Argentina or the World Championships in Paris.
"For these two to make it to Tokyo together, I can't even imagine the opening ceremonies," Darius's father Tim Fulghum said. "I already bought a cry rag because this will be a historic moment."
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