Long overdue success for the likeable American, writes James Sullivan.
After several near misses, American Nick Symmonds finally claimed the major championship medal which had to date eluded him, by taking 800m silver at the World Championships in Moscow this evening. The Eugene based athlete ran a tactically brilliant race, storming into the lead coming off the final bend, before being passed by Ethiopian pre-race favourite, Mohammed Aman, in the closing stages. Aman won gold in 1:43.31, with Symmonds taking the silver in a season’s best of 1:43.55, while Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman finished third with 1:43.76.
“I put myself in there. I risked running a slower time to be in position” explained Symmonds, who becomes the first US medalist in the men’s 800m at a world championships since 1997. “I could have run faster if my splits were a little more even. I thought I had it with 50 to go, but I’m very pleased with a silver medal.”
The 29 year old has experienced multiple doses of major championship heartache in the past, finishing 6th at the World Championships in Berlin in 2009, 5th in Daegu two years later, and 5th again at last years London Olympics. “After six championships and four finals, I just really wanted to run around the track with a flag on my back. Normally at this time I’m at the practice track crying.”
“I truly believed I could get it done. To be a medalist it takes a lot of hard work, and a lot of luck as well. I have a lot of experience and after four finals, I’m glad to be going home with a medal. It feels like all the hard work and sacrifice has paid off.”
The charismatic two-lapper has built up a cult following through his honest and entertaining online blogs, and has spoken about his desire to claim a medal so his intended indulgence in beer will be all the sweeter.
“I’m going for a beer as soon as I get out of here with my family and my coaches. But there’s still work to be done. I’ve got a few races that I would like to hit. I would really like to give this guy (Aman) a run for his money in both Zurich and Brussels. But it has been a long season, a long cycle, and Oregon is beautiful in the fall so once I get home I plan on drinking some beers and catching a lot of fish.”
With the long awaited medal in his back pocket, the American plans to put his love for beer to good use and has his sights set on breaking Australian Josh Harris’s beer mile world record of 5:04. “I’ve always said sub 5 is possible. Last year I put a mark up of 5:19. I’m not sure if this is necessarily the year to attack it but I want that world record.”
However in order to achieve this landmark, he acknowledges that improvements to his basic drinking speed will be required. “I can do 8 seconds, there’s a training video on YouTube of me putting 12 ounces down in 8 seconds.”
“Unfortunately I cant do this after 3 laps. It’s going to take a lot of training but I’m up to the challenge.”