Why Nick Symmonds Will Medal (and Maybe Win) the World Champs 800m
By Roy Stevenson
Irrepressible Nick Symmonds had a tough year in 2014. With an injured knee from the previous indoor track season plaguing his fitness last year, Symmonds didn’t appear in any serious races to speak of, and consequently suffered from the usual lack of confidence that these injuries tend to instill in elite athletes.
Would he ever bounce back to his previous world championship silver form, he must have been asking himself as he went through his rehab program? Rumors even surfaced that Nick Symmonds was considering throwing in the towel.
But it’s just as well he didn’t . . .
At the recent USATF Champs in Eugene, Symmonds showed that he’s back and he’s bad. In fact, he’s downright badass!
Symmonds systematically dismantled the seven best half-milers this country has to offer by blowing their doors off over the final 120 meters in the 800 meters final–in a highly respectable 1:44.53. And this field included Duane Solomon, the second fastest half-miler in U.S. history, and one of the country’s finest and hardest working half-milers ever, who was reduced, literally, to walking down the home straight as Symmonds came thundering past.
Many of us in the press box had written Symmonds off in the USATF final as he loped through the first lap in last place, about 1.5 seconds behind Duane Solomon. We were sucking our teeth and nodding our heads and muttering that he’s left it far too late.
But, Symmonds’s final sprint from dead last position at the bell, to his decisive victory, shows he’s regained his fitness and that he has the tactical smarts to win big championship finals.
Symmonds has gained valuable experience from his previous two Olympic Games and five World Champs–experience that is so critical for top level international competition. In this arena, where no quarter is given, nor expected, there are no second chances. I’ve seen cutthroat Diamond League races where I swear that if the runners had switchblades on the track, they’d use them! Make one mistake in these races and you’re toast!
Symmonds has learned well from the championship finals and his other rough-and-tumble diamond league races, and has now amassed enough experience to be able to run his races tactically or the hard way, and still come through at the finish like an unchained rocket.
Here’s a quick summary of Nick Symmond’s biggest career races:
Six-time USA Outdoor champion (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, & 2015).
2007 U.S.A. Indoor champion
2008 U.S.A. Indoor runner-up
Three-time U.S.A. Outdoor runner-up (2006, 2007, 2013)
2007 World Outdoor champs 6th in Semi-final
2008 Olympic Games 5th in Semi-final
2009 World Outdoor champs 6th in final
2011 World Outdoor champs 5th in final
2012 Olympic Games 5th in final
2013 World Outdoor champs final 2nd in final
If you follow Symmond’s progression overs the years, you’ll see that he’s put in his apprenticeship. He’s done his hard time. He’s clawed his way up to the top of the world 800-meter pyramid and, in my opinion, looks set to reach the very pinnacle at the upcoming world champs.
Symmonds’ times reflect his world class rankings. He’s ranked third on the USA All-Time list behind Johnny Gray and Duane Solomon, with a personal best of 1:42.95. His name appears on this list before legendary half-milers Khadevis Robinson, Alan Webb, Jim Ryun, Dave Wottle, and Rick Wohlhuter.
He’s run under 1:43 once, and under 1:44 an impressive ten times.
Symmonds has now re-assembled himself as a complete package for the world champs. He’s got the fitness, the finish, the confidence, and the tactical know-how to win this one.
Given some good tune-up races in the Diamond League, the right conditions, and a smidgeon of luck, he’ll bring home the world champs gold. We know Symmonds is up against Rudisha and a half dozen other classy half-milers, but we also know he’s not intimidated by them.
And we’re betting that he’ll stand somewhere on the victory stand regardless of how the final is run.
Provided he can stay away from Paris Hilton and avoid flogging off other parts of his anatomy to sponsors, during his preparation for the world champs, this will be Nick Symmond’s ‘big one’.
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