Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Silver for Symmonds

As great as it was to see Rupp and Manzano claim silver medals in the 10000 and 1500 in London at the Olympics, Nick Symmond's silver medal at 800 at the World Championships in Moscow feels somewhat more satisfying.  Symmonds is to USA track and field what Jim Furyk is to professional golf, a grinder.  With his performance in Moscow, Symmonds stamped himself as one of America's greatest 800 meter runners ever.

Symmonds is a running everyman.  He went to a small college on Oregon where he somehow defied the odds to become a world class runner.  He fought the sport's archaic system on sponsorship for track and field athletes.  He even set an American record in the beer mile.

Symmonds had learned from past failures.  He always used a stunning kick to thrust himself into races, a tactic that he used to great effect to win national titles.  But his kick was never enough on the world stage because he would often dottle at the rear of the field too long to use it.

This race was different.  American Duane Solomon did his usual front running, but Symmonds, instead of falling to the rear as usual, sat in the middle of the field, slowly moving up on the home stretch of the first lap to latch onto the front.  From there he controlled the race roaring past Solomon with 200 meters to go, finding that extra gear with 100 to go, looking like the gold was his.  Unfortunately Ethiopia's Mohammed Aman came back from the dead and ran Symmonds down in the last 40 meters.  It didn't matter, because Symmonds had a medal that deep down inside he thought he could never win.

Unfortunately Solomon faded down the homestretch and finished out of the medals.  But it was a sweet day for U.S. track and field.  David Oliver took a much deserved gold medal in the hurdles and another long-time grinder, Ryan Wilson, grabbed the silver.  Only Jen Suhr fell short in the women's pole vault where the Russian crowd lifted her rival Yelena Isinbayeva to gold. 

Now if Nick will just stay away from Paris Hilton.

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