It was a big day for Eugene at the Olympic Trials yesterday. In the men’s 800 final, Nick Symmonds of the Oregon Track Club, Andrew Wheating of Oregon and Christian Smith, also of the Oregon Track Club, took first, second and third, respectively. The crowd at Hayward Field went absolutely nuts, even those watching the jumbotron in the Eugene ’08 festival area.
The race, probably the most memorable of the Trials, has received write-ups in both the Chicago-Tribune and The New York Times. Sports Illustrated columnist Tim Layden profiles Wheating and his meteoric rise, making some not-so-subtle allusions to a certain mustachioed Oregon runner of yore. For the most comprehensive coverage of the race head over to letsrun.com.
Symmonds and Wheating both stayed in the back of the pack until the homestretch, as is their wont, before burning the rest of the field with their trademark kicks. Both were somewhat of underdogs going into the finals, which led to some live-blogging foot-in-mouth over at the Eugene Weekly blog. “It’d be a miracle if both of them go to Beijing,” EW writer Chuck Adams wrote at 8:21 p.m. This was followed at 8:28 by “Holy Fuck. Wheating and Symmonds are going to Beijing.”
Smith’s third-place finish was perhaps the most dramatic. He literally dove face-first over the finish line and into the track, beating Khadevis Robinson by six-hundredths of a second. Robinson filed a protest, claiming Smith had grabbed him as he fell. The protest was denied. For his part, Smith can’t even really remember if he grabbed Robinson or not, which led to a rather odd quote. From letsrun.com:
“We both fell and I was hoping anyone was there, if Jesus would’ve been there I would’ve grabbed him.”
However, the Tribune story has a slightly different quote from Smith:
“I was so lactated I couldn’t see. I was hoping Jesus was out there so I could have grabbed him, too.”
In any case, watch your back, Big J. There’s a lactating Olympic athlete after you.