With Twigg, always hovering near is the theme of mind, how it can affect everything, and everything can affect it. "You can be too focused," she says. "It leads to overtraining, the signs of which for me are canker sores and not sleeping well. You have to listen to your body, take the chance of an easy day."
These intuitions, these listenings, are leaps of faith but not blind ones. Few know better than an athlete the power of belief. So it is hardly surprising that Twigg, searcher, improver, pursuer, has for the last two years sought and increasingly found such a soothing connection with the cosmos that she now terms it God. "My sister is a Christian missionary in Asia," says Twigg, "but before, when I had tried to intellectualize religion, I always found holes in it. Then two years ago, when I tried to feel it, something was there."
The occasion was a difficult one. Twigg had broken off a lengthy relationship with boyfriend Jame Carney. "The pain was...considerable," she says. "My sister prayed for me, and within days there was an easing. Then I prayed, though it felt really unnatural. It took a week and a half before it felt not-unnatural. Then there was"—her head cocks like that of a robin on a lawn—"not a blinding moment, but practicing this praying, I started feeling calm and fulfilled. I'd also been given Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramhansa Yogananda. I read it and felt similarities with Christianity. Where different religions converge, that's where the truth is." She stresses another point: It may appear that her insight came in answer to need, but she feels it was discovery. She pursued and was rewarded.
So she heads to Atlanta with nervous joy. "I absolutely don't like the sterility of incessant competition," she says. "The proving of yourself day after day. But I love the big races, where all the best are. The Olympic races are so big almost everyone is happy just to make it there, so I'm not going to wreck their lives if I win."
She lifts her hands as if from the handlebars, presses her palms together and points her fingers forward, as if carving out a little V of air ahead of her, a space to slip into as she breaks from the pack.
She is asked if longtime nemesis Jeannie Longo of France would be so happy with a Twigg victory in Atlanta. "There are exceptions," says Twigg quickly, wryly. "I can handle exceptions."