Moscow, Russia -
During the long hours of waiting on Tuesday for his 800
meter final at the World Championships, Nick Symmonds spent hours
visualizing his celebration on the track after he won the race.
It almost happened.
The former Willamette University star ran a nearly perfect race, and, with
50 meters to go, looked like he would be the world champion. But a late
charge by Mohammed Aman of Ethiopia denied Symmonds the gold medal - and
his planned celebration.
But Symmonds had to be content with claiming the silver medal - a historic
feat in itself. His silver was the first-ever for the U.S. in a world
championship 800, and was the top American performance in a major
international championship since Dave Wottle won the Olympic 800 in the
1972 Munich Olympics.
Symmonds finished in a season best 1:43.55, while Aman's winning time was
1:43.31. Ayanleh Souleiman of Djbouti won the bronze.
After making the last three championship finals and coming up empty,
Symmonds was excited to make the podium and proud of his race."I feel like I really raced for gold tonight," Symmonds said. "I wasn't
content to sit in the back and hang on for dear life and race for a bronze. I raced for a gold and there is no shame in finishing second."
He also acknowledged a debt of gratitude to US teammate Duane Solomon for
taking the lead and pushing the pace through most of the race. The quick
pace - 50 seconds flat for the first lap - kept the field of runners from
"I'm disappointed for Duane," he said. "My hat goes off to him. I don't
know if I could be silver medalist without him in that race. It would have
been an absolute cluster, and we could have a lot of traffic as I've done
in the last three finals."
Known in the past as someone who typically ran more conservatively and
relied on a lethal finishing kick, Symmonds eschewed that approach here. As
the runners neared the halfway mark in the race, he moved up to Solomon's
shoulder at the bell and the two ran side by side in front until the home
Then Symmonds made his move.
"With 100 to go I flipped that switch and at 750 (meters) I was pretty
sure I was going to be the next world champion. But Aman's tough. He finds
a way to get to that line and he did that tonight and that's why he's your
world champion. I think I ran a tactically solid race and was able to save just enough to
be able to close that last 200. I do wonder if I would have run slightly
more conservative, if I could have run slightly faster. But I did that the
last three finals and found myself in traffic. I'm sick and tired of having
the legs in the last 100 and not having a clear shot to the finish line.
Tonight I risked running a slightly slower time to have good position."
Noting that he is planning to move up in distance to the 1500 meters in
the future, the 29-year-old Symmonds was happy he could medal here. The
absence of world record holder David Rudisha, who is injured, made this
race a great opportunity for the rest of the elite field.
Symmonds said he felt "a huge sense of relief" to finally bag a medal.
"I said if I am going to win a medal in the 800, this might be my only
shot because I am contemplating moving up to the 1500 in a year or two. I
have one now. There is a sense of bittersweetness in that I was so close to
being a champion. But if I was a champion there would still be a sense of
bittersweetness that David is not here. But that's what makes an elite an
elite - they're never totally content . . . There's always the sense of
wanting more. This is enough fire for the furnace to keep me hot and
Symmonds also saluted his coach, Mark Rowland, for holding him back
earlier in the season, and not starting his speed work in training sooner.
The change in training may have cost Symmonds another U.S. title - it would
have been his sixth straight - but it enabled him to peak later for the
"I really want to give a shout out to Coach Rowland because I couldn't
have done it without him. He's the one when I begged him to give me speed
work in May and he said 'No, I don't care if you don't win USAs this year,
I want you to win a medal. When we went into USAs I had only run one 800 -
I was as raw as I have ever been. We really rolled the dice there
considering how deep the US was. I guess it's the sense of relief I feel more than anything because I
sacrificed so much and risked so much - it's all part of the greater plan
Coach Row has for me. From day one I subscribed to the plan he had for me
and put my faith in him."
Symmonds is planning a few more races in Europe, as well as the Fifth
Avenue Mile in New York in September, before he calls it quits for the
year. When his season is over, Symmonds said you would be able to find him
on the river with a cold beverage and a fishing rod in hand.
"Oregon is beautiful in the fall," he said.