Olympic 1500 Meters: Leonel Manzano Breaks Huge Medal Drought for U.S. Track

Tyler Donohue@@TDsTakeNational Recruiting AnalystAugust 7, 2012

Alex Brandon, AP
Alex Brandon, AP

While American sprinters try to figure out how to overcome Jamaica's short-distance dominance, U.S. is finding long-awaited success in other elements on the track. Leonal Manzano surged to a second-place finish in the 1,500-meter final on Tuesday, capturing the country's first medal in the event since 1968.

The 27-year-old Texan took silver with a finishing time of 3:34.79 seconds. Manzano, who was born in Mexico, completed the "metric mile" immediately behind Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi, who won in 3:34.08.

Moroccan Abdalaati Iguider followed in third place, at 3:35.17. American Matthew Centrowitz narrowly missed out on adding to the U.S. medal count, settling for fourth place with a time of 3:35.17.

Manzano made up a lot of ground in the final push toward the finish line, passing several competitors on his way to a historic silver medal. His outstanding performance puts an end to a 44-year U.S. drought in the event.

Prior to today's 1,500m final, U.S. men had walked away empty-handed from the race every Olympics since the 1968 Mexico City Games. American Jim Ryun earned silver that year.

Manzano's achievement becomes even more eye-opening when you consider that no U.S. runner had even qualified for the event final since the 2000 Sydney Games.

Ryun addressed the long-lasting American slump during a recent interview with the Scripps Howard News Service:

"If you look at the history of miling and 1500-meter running throughout the world, it seems to float from continent to continent," Ryun told David Nielson. "In the '60s we were the location, and then the British, and now the Africans. I think there's a chance it will come back to this country eventually."

The U.S. took a crucial step toward regaining respect in the event on Tuesday. Manzano's amazing finishing kick quickly changed the narrative.