US Olympic Track 2012: Middle Distance Team May Steal Show from Sprinters

Noah JampolFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2012

EUGENE, OR - JULY 01:  Leonel Manzano (L) celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the Men's 1500 Meter Run Final ahead of Matthew Centrowitz on day ten of the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at the Hayward Field on July 1, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Imagine how crazy you would have sounded saying this before the Olympics: American men's middle-distance will match or exceed their sprinting colleagues' medal total.

That's a joke, really.

After all, an American male hasn't won a medal at the Olympics in the 800-meter run since 1992. Worse, the drought for a medal in the 1500-meter run goes all the way back to 1968. 

Now how about their sprint counterparts? How about six medals in 2008 Beijing Olympics alone from the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter dashes. And considering Tyson Gay's injury and Usain Bolt's shocking emergence, that haul was considered disappointing.

Boy, how the tables have turned. 

American middle-distance running is resurgent and looking inspired after Galen Rupp's stunning silver medal in the 10,000-meter run. 

In the 1,500-meter run, Matthew Centrowitz has backed up his shock bronze at the 2011 World Championships with comfortable advancement to the final.

His teammate, Leonel Manzano, looked poised and ready in his own semifinal after a nail-biting qualification to get there.

Make no mistake, it won't be easy for either of the two to medal. Still, Centrowitz showed it could be done last year and still possesses the timing and savvy to run with anyone in a tactical race.

Manzano himself has the pace-shifting ability to close late for a medal if he's able to avoid physical confrontations that have plagued him in finals in the past.

Meanwhile, this is playing out as the Jamaicans reaffirmed their dominance over the Americans in the sprints.

Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake relegated the Americans to the bottom step of the podium with a dominating performance in last night's 100-meter dash final. 

That meager medal total of one will get no help in the 400-meter dash, as zero Americans even qualified for the final. The best hope, LaShawn Merritt, was taken out through injury leaving inexperienced collegiates to fall in the semifinals.

For a nation that prides itself on its dominance in the one-lap event getting shut out of the medals, let alone the final, is simply mind-blowing.

It only gets better for the American middle-distance men. In the 800-meter preliminary heats today, Nick Symmonds and Duane Solomon looked strong as ever.

Solomon, this year's revelation, sports a 1:43.44 personal best that looks well in line for a medal if he can control the urge to go out too hard.

Symmonds has slowly progressed his way since 2008 to a legitimate medal threat. Last year he was just tenths out of a medal and that was with two stars, Sudan's Abubaber Kaki and Russia's Yuriy Borzakovskiy, in much better form.

The 200-meter dash looks even bleaker for the Americans in wake of the 100 final. With Bolt and Blake seemingly blocking two-out-of-three medals, it will all be on Wallace Spearmon to deliver the goods.

Tyson Gay, who is probably still the nation's best runner at the distance, won't even compete.

Spearmon is no better than on equal footing with the Netherlands' Churandy Martina, France's Christophe Lemaitre, and a third Jamaican, Warren Weir.

In other words, it looks ugly. The sprinters are likely stuck at one with just one event to go.

So, American middle-distance is set to trump their once-untouchable sprint counterparts. Let's just hope that the Jamaicans don't set their sights on these events longer than one lap.