7 Surprising Things That Happen After Winning an Olympic Medal
"The treasured, powerful symbol of athletic success was like hiding in my suitcase in a bundle of socks.”
By Erin Strout, Runner's World
Team USA’s track & field athletes are always expected to do well at the Olympics—and usually they tally a significant number of medals across the sprints and jumps. At the Rio Games in August, though, it was the American distance runners who took the world by surprise, earning seven podium positions in the 800 meters and up, two more medals in those events than the previous four Olympics combined.
The seven top distance athletes came home to celebrations, honors and appearances that commemorated their historic performances. Since then, they’ve also had time to let their accomplishments sink in and enjoy the fun that comes from reaching the pinnacle achievement of a pro runner’s career. There have been celebrity phone calls, unimpressed elementary school children, and recollections of the powerful emotions that set in on the Olympic track.
Here’s a taste of the memories and what life has been like since the closing ceremony:
Event: 1500 meters
Significance: The first time in 108 years the U.S. won the event at the Olympics
Race Day Recollections: The day of his final round, Centrowitz, 27, received an email from legend Jim Ryun, who won silver in the 1500 meters at the 1968 Olympics, which he read on the way to the track that evening.
“I found that to be really neat,” Centrowitz said. “He said good luck and that he and his wife were praying and thinking of me. He was going to watch the race and wished me the best. He shared a Bible verse with me.”
Star-Struck Coach: The most significant post-race moment came on the victory lap, when Centrowitz spotted his sister and dad. Shortly after that he saw his coach, Alberto Salazar, whose reaction was not what the new Olympic champion was expecting.
“Oh man, I don’t think I’ve seen Alberto like that excited in a long, long time,” Centrowitz said. “He asked to see the medal, he asked to hold it and take a picture. Alberto never gets like that…he was into it. He’s normally pretty laid back, nothing really fazes him. That was pretty funny to see—he was all giddy about the medal.”