Jeff Benjamin has written for American Athletics, American Track & Field and now, RunBlogRun. He is both journalist and track fan, a his track version of TMZ, shown below, is one of the reasons why I enjoy his assistance so much! Here are some of his favortie moments from Rio!
All of us are shaped by the interactions we experience, and in the world of Sports, the Rio Olympic Games experience is no exception. From a fans’ perspective, I was able to experience athletes, coaches and people in a very unique way sometimes not observed by the Press. So, in no special order, here are 30 instances which stood out in this writers’ mind, with all for them for the better except for one.
1) The joy of seeing Coach Ron Warhurst basking in the glory of seeing his athlete, New Zealander Nick Willis, once again earning the Bronze medal in the men’s 1500.
2) Seeing IAAF President, Olympic and Mile icon Seb Coe NOT being detached and removed like previous leaders from the athletes and events, but interacting positively with all to see – athletes, coaches, officials & fans alike- and promoting the Sport he (and all of us) love and want to see succeed. Considering he has been the victim of online threats, Seb showed more bravery being out and about than he did as a competitor, as he’s no doubt now experiencing a different kind of pressure. But keep in mind, with his stance against doping, He, and not the IOC, has now become the rampart against Sports’ greatest challenge.
3) Moments after a great Men’s 10,000, watching Coach Alberto Salazar in a corridor give a young kid Galen Rupp’s spikes and race number moments after the race, causing the kid to break down in tears of incredulous joy!
4) Getting an invite to visit Cuba from “El Caballo” – Alberto Juantorena, the only male athlete to win both the 400 and the 800 (World Record!) in the same Olympics. The Montreal Olympics legend and IAAF Vice President seemed happy that U.S.-Cuba relations have gotten better.
7) Always quick-witted, Steeplechaser
Donn Cabral was his usual self as he made another Olympic final, friendly and funny, always keeping things in perspective.
8) Watching Boris Berian commiserate with family and friends after his 800 meter final. Within minutes, however, he regained his composure and gladly met with his fans. How can one not root for this guy?
9) The class of Allyson Felix, who, after getting the Silver in the 400, spoke and mixed with fans after the medal ceremony when one had to know that she had to be disappointed with her race. Didn’t matter though, as she later won Golds and went on to become the most decorated female Track and Field athlete in history!
10) The roller coaster emotions of Robby Andrews and his friends and family as at first it seemed no foul would be called in his 1509 semi, then the foul was called, followed by a 3 hour marathon- long process of appeals which did not work out for him. Nevertheless, always great and accommodating to his fans in the stadium throughout his experience. Photo above is Kristin Andrews with brother Robby.
13) Seeing Ed Eyestone for the first time in 25 years, smiling widely over his protege Jared Ward’s stellar Marathon performance.
14) The day before the men’s 1500 final seeing Lauren Centrowitz, Tom Nohilly and the rest of the Centro team on top of the heights of Sugar Loaf Mountain- a foretelling of things to come?With the Centro Crew!!
15) Meeting for the first time Discus legend Mac Wilkins also on Sugar Loaf!
16) Seeing Javelin competitor
Cyrus Hostetler who made his 2nd Olympic team and was cheering on his teammates throughout the Games.
17) Bernard Lagat with his family, impressing my friends as he asked about my daughter (who he met way back in 2001 at the Millrose Games!) and always keeping his class and composure with the fans even after what had to be his frustrating up and down placing in the 5000, where he was first awarded a Bronze medal but saw it taken away.Lagat with fans Josh & Tony Gulotta.
18) Caster Semanaya, who was the object of threats and controversy, yet always stopping at the request of fans for an autograph and pic, albeit with a “Chaperone” watching every move.
21) Seeing old friend and now Olympic Coach Tracy Sundlun, who spoke about strengthening the race walking event in America, calling for a return to 1980’s type training and coaching.
22) Seeing Alex Salazar throughout the Games, as he no doubt celebrated Rupp and Centrowitz’ medals!
24) Speaking with Craig Masback quickly and reminiscing about old times although the one time I remember was his outstanding 3:52 mile in Oslo back in 1979!
26) Rooting for Ireland’s Sara Treacy in the Steeple, who looked in great position in her semi, but was part of the bump and fall where she was banged up. She was reinstated into the final, but had a rough go. Nevertheless, she sounded upbeat after the race and also met with fans graciously.
27) NOT GRACIOUS – an athlete I will not name, rudely and angrily said “No” to every fan, even kids and made a bee- line straight away from everyone, even after every qualifier, semi and medal ceremony. Karma? This athlete was very disappointed in his/her finish in Rio. I’ll leave it at that.
28) Meeting the legendary 1964 Gold 200 medalist Edith McGuire Duvall and her husband Charles for lunch! A Great champion but most importantly great people!
30) Coming upon the Team Centro clan in the corridors after watching the incredible and historic victory of Matt Centrowitz in the 1500. Matt SR., obviously backing in his son’s accomplishment, then graciously invited me to come along with them to where the medal ceremony was taking place. Pride had to be an understatement in his Dad’s eyes, as he was beyond thrilled to see his son awaiting the Gold he earned. But not before some guffawing before the solemnity. With Lord Coe solemnly awaiting the moment to present Matt Jr with the Gold medal, Matt Sr., sounding like a fan in Yankee Stadium (he is a Bronx native after all!) pointed and yelled out, “Don’t mess this up Seb!”, leading Coe to almost lose his composure and break out laughing!Coe then gave Centro his medal, the first American winner since 1908, and reportedly told him, “Welcome to the club!”
All in all, great people, great athletes, great drama- Definitely something for our Sport to build upon! With athletes and fans like these, the sky’s the limit!