Sunday, August 24, 2008

Shannon Rowbury Update

Because of her Duke connections, we've tracked closely the Olympic performance of 1500 m runner Shannon Rowbury. She won the US Olympic Trials and looked like a contender for a medal in Beijing. A number of factors, including of course faster runners, conspired instead, and Rowbury finished seventh.

Her qualifying heat was by far the fastest of the three; he top five runners each were faster than any other qualifier. This was due in part to the speed set by Chinese runner Qing Liu, who set out in a blistering 62 second first lap. As the home-crowd favorite fell back at about 700 meters, Rowbury took control and led the race for the next 500 meters. With about 200 meters to go, a clear front group emerged, led by Kenyan Nancy Jebet Langat. All five in that group qualified for the final, but one may wonder what the extra fast pace took out of each of those runners. To see the round 1 races, click here (Rowbury's race starts about 26 minutes into the lengthy clip).

Two of the runners in that front pack were not adversely affected by the fast qualifier. Lagat won the gold medal in 4.00.23, a personal best; Ukranian runner Natalia Tobias captured a bronze with a personal best of her own. Rowbury finished at 4.03.58, just half a second faster than her qualifying time. [View the 1500 m final here]. Russian Ana Alminova set a fairly average pace with 66 seconds in the first lap and 68 in the second lap. Rowbury had spent most of the race in fourth or fifth, drafting behind Alminova and Bahranian runner Maryam Yusuf Jamal. Running without her country's distinctive hijab, Jamal was the favorite going into the race and was leading with 300 meters to go when Lagat zoomed by. Rowbury tried to go with the front group with a lap to go, and was in fourth place at the 1300 m mark, but was passed by a group that contained Tobias and others. It's possible that the slow first half of the race hurt Rowbury's chances, as the American hopeful sat back behind the leaders for much of the race.

It was a tough assignment for Rowbury; NBC notes that no American woman has ever medaled in the event. "I didn't quite have that extra gear in the last 200," said Rowbury. She was disappointed in the result; it wasn't even a season best for Rowbury, who nearly eclipsed four minutes in June. "But it's the Olympics, so I can't complain," she concluded. Barring the event of an injury, it's quite likely Rowbury will be returning to the Olympic stage in London, 2012. Notably, every runner that finished ahead of her in the 1500 m final is older than Rowbury. Yes, that includes Jamal, who is just three days older, but each medal winner will be past her thirtieth birthday in 2012, and may not be competitive.

It is quite the accomplishment to even attempt to go where no American has gone, and we at the Immacualte Inning will continue to live vicariously through your efforts! Congratulations, Shannon!

PS: Usain Bolt's three world records is more impressive than Michael Phelps' eight golds. There. I said it.

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