Big Turnaround for U.S. Middle Distance Running
U.S. Milers winning medals and races, leading world lists and the best world-wide both genders combined
By David Monti, Race Results Weekly
At the 2003 IAAF World Championships in Paris, the United States put in a dismal performance in the middle distance events. With the Stade de France packed to capacity for nearly every session (the French were hoping to get the 2012 Olympics), not a single American athlete –male or female– made the finals of the 800m or 1500m. Indeed, the best performance was a sixth place in the 800m semi-finals by David Krummenacker.
Moreover, only a handful of USA athletes ran fast times that year by global standards. During the outdoor season, only six American women managed to break 4:10 in the 1500m, according to the statistics website Tilastopaja.org, and a paltry six USA men broke 3:40 for the same distance. Not a single American runner was ranked in the top-10 by Track & Field News that year for either 800m or 1500m. It was a dark time for American running.
“I do remember,” said 2011 World 1500m champion Jenny Simpson during a telephone interview. “Juli (Benson, her coach at the time) sat me down. We pulled up YouTube and were watching old world championships footage. It was not lost on me that there were no Americans, no Americans in the race, never mind contending for medals.”
TEN YEARS LATER, A TOTAL TURNAROUND
During the last ten years, a remarkable comeback has taken place for American middle distance running. The United States is again one of the best middle distance nations on earth. At last summer’s IAAF World Championships in Moscow, Team USA won four medals in the 800m and 1500m (Nick Symmonds, 800m silver; Simpson, 1500m silver; Matthew Centrowitz, 1500m, silver; Brenda Martinez, 800m, bronze), the first time any nation has achieved four medals in those disciplines in a single world championships. The Americans advanced eight athletes to the four finals, and 12 athletes in the semi-finals. The entire USA women’s 800m team made the final.
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