WACO, Texas – Track has taken Wil London, III all over the world – and as he prepares to embark on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it is doubtful he’ll find anywhere he’ll treasure more than his hometown of Waco.
“Waco from the start, and I’ll be Waco through the finish,” London, III said.
From the city’s Youth Track Program to Waco High School, and a stellar college career at Baylor, he has always called the city home.
“Whether it’s in Russia, or if it’s in Belarus, or if it’s in Tokyo, you’re still going to hear him say, ‘Waco, that’s my hometown,'” London’s father, Will London, Jr., said. “I think that’s pretty cool.”
As the city’s first ever homegrown Olympian, London, III knows his duty as a positive influence.
“He’s kind of carrying the city as a former Waco ISD student and Waco High Student,” says James Stewart, London, III’s high school track coach. “You’re proud for him. You’re proud for the city. He gets to put another positive notch in.”
London, III was not always the track star he is now. His father recounts his son’s first track practice, where the young boy cried all the way there. Once he was urged to race the other kids, he realized his speed. By the fifth grade, his ambitions changed.
London, Jr. bursts with pride as he pulls out an old three-ring binder, where a paper written on September 7, 2007, reveals his son’s goals.
“My ultimate goal is to become a pro athlete in the NBA or Track & Field,” he read from his son’s handwriting.
London, III has always had Olympic dreams – not only for himself, but for his city.
“He wants to put the city on his shoulder,” London, Jr. said. “He wants to be the one to bring everybody together to make a difference.”
London, III takes solace in the fact he could accomplish what he’s wanted to without ever leaving the city.
“It’s not like I left and went to a bigger city to accomplish everything,” London, III said. “Everybody is here to bear witness, and everybody pretty much supports me, and I support everybody else.”
The city showed their support on Tuesday – giving a proclamation for July 20, 2021 to be “Wil London Day” in Waco.
Even with all the recognition, those who have watched him grow up say the man they used to call “Little Wil” hasn’t changed a bit. He’s still the same guy who walked quietly, but confidently through the halls of Waco High.
“When he was in high school, he didn’t have a big group around him,” Stewart said. “He was kind of quiet, mild-mannered, but when he spoke he could get your attention.”
London, III says the lack of change is just how he likes it.
“I just do everything with the same people I came up with, and they don’t treat me any different. So that’s something I love, also,” London, III said. “It’s not just home. It’s like family to me.”
His biggest supporters find it tough to articulate how proud they are to see him achieving his goal and representing his country at the sport’s biggest stage.
“Just to know that he’s representing, and he’ll put that USA on, and he’ll represent it with everything he’s got, it’s pretty special,” London, Jr. said.
While London, III is the first native Wacoan to reach the games, some of the country’s greatest ever runners have come out of Baylor – from Michael Johnson to Jeremy Wariner – both people that London, III texts when he needs advice.
London, III doesn’t simply just want to be next to them in the pantheon of Baylor greats.
“Being the competitor I am, I want to pass them,” London III said. “I want to be the greatest to ever come through Baylor.”