(If you’re looking for the 1600m recap, click here)
It was Tuesday, the final day of competition.
Unlike the past few days, no snow, rain, or ice fell overnight – making course conditions perfect for the racers.
Rumor around the track was that US athlete Alex Guild – 3rd in the preliminary round and recent winner of a bronze medal in the 1600m – was shuttled off to a chicken restaurant after the 1600m. Further speculation suggests his parents slipped the US coaches some Won and instructed that he be allow to “eat a ton”. We’ll soon find out if the chicken strategy paid off or if he left too much on the field yesterday during his bronze medal finish.
Spectators lined up for the final division 1 race: the longest race of the Games. Early-on favorite from Team Canada (Red), a tall, lanky athlete, stretched his arms and pumped his fists at the crowd. Team France (Black) - 2nd in the preliminary – slowly walked back and forth across the starting line, Team USA (Blue) jumped up and down loosening up his legs, and Team Russia (Grey) worked the crowd.
Runners to their marks…
The signal flies and they are off and running! The course uses the same paths as the 1600m with the athletes quickly rounding the track before a steep ascent up the first hill. The runners jockey back and forth during this first hill climb before disappearing into the distance.
There are no spectator positions along the route – only the coaches and racing volunteers are allowed and they have specific instructions they can’t touch the athletes or help them in any way.
Team USA’s coach snapped a few shots while his athlete raced past:
Meanwhile, back at the finish, the spectators grow a little restless. With this being the longest of all the snowshow events, people excitedly check and re-check their watches, all the while trying to estimate how long it will be before the runners re-appear. One women nervously jumps from foot to foot, trying to stay warm.
Preliminary times had the first runner heading into the final hill around 24 minutes into the race, so people could mingle and excitedly talk about their favorites, predict final times, and swap trinkets with other spectators during this wait. The parents of the USA athlete held hands, quietly staring into the trees while hoping — praying — their son had enough juice to finish the race.
The race clock hits 19 minutes and the din of the crowd lowers as they peek through the trees, each hoping to be the first one to spot the runners when they circle back. Would Canada reign supreme? Could USA hold onto the 3rd position? Could France threaten for gold? Would Russia be the upset?
With just a hair past 20 minutes into the race, a flash of red peeps through the trees. It’s Canada and the athlete is running the race of his life – a good 4 minutes ahead of preliminary speeds and just a smidge under the 15% preliminary time that would disqualify him if he ran too fast. Canadians burst into applause as he enters into the final hill and begins the steep decline into the final 200m of track.
Waiting, waiting, waiting…
BLUE!!!! The all-familiar red, white, and blue is blurring from the top of the hill. Team USA is in second place! The crowd goes crazy with loud chants of “ALEX GUILD” echoing through the stands!
Gaining momentum, the athlete turns on the gas and magnificently strides across the finish line! Check out that form!
The athletes ran an incredible final run – with Canada taking gold, USA taking silver, and France the bronze. Both gold and silver medalists set personal records – with USA finishing just under the 30 minute mark. It was an incredible moment!
They say their wasn’t a more gracious winner on the stand than Alex. He clapped for each of the other winners and when the silver was placed over his neck, his smile radiated for miles. A true champion.
The two-time Olympic medalist posing with two of the US coaches and his silver hardware.
It’s impossible to put my feelings into words that would convey even a small amount of the pride and joy I am feeling. To go from such dispair after the preliminaries, wondering if he’d medal at all with his sickness and lack of sufficient food/water. Yet, he bounced back and pushed through when it mattered most. I couldn’t be more satisfied even if his medals were gold. What an amazing, amazing story.
I have no doubt when Mom and Dad get back I’ll have a TON more pictures to show you. Plus, they have some video coverage of the actual events!!! Alex gets back on Friday and we’ll definitely need up close pictures of the hardware as well as some of his insight from the Olympics. Stay tuned for that and thanks for all your support and encouragement during his events. Rumor has it he now has his sights set on the 2017 games in Austria!
Filed under: Special Olympics