Inspirational Athlete Series: Meb Keflezighi, Team USA, Marathon
Special to Gymnastike
In the first of this two-part series, as a special to Gymnastike, we are highlighting inspirational non-gymnast athletes.
The first such athlete is Meb Keflezigi, or "Marathon Meb," as he's known worldwide. Meb's is a story of persistence, determination, and the American Dream.
Photo: Don Emmert, Getty Images
Born and raised in the war-torn African country of Eritrea, Meb moved to California with his parents and 10 siblings at age 12. Soon after, the seventh grader who initially spoke no English shocked teachers and classmates alike when he ran a 5:20 mile in gym class. And he never stopped running.
Throughout school, Meb continued to excel both on and off the track, earning a full scholarship to UCLA. At UCLA, he earned numerous All-American and other honors, including 4 NCAA titles in one calendar year. After graduation, Meb continued running. He qualified for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, where he placed 12th in the 10,000. Four years later, Meb returned to the Olympics in a major way: he won the silver medal in the marathon, becoming the first American man to medal in an Olympic marathon since 1976.
Then, four years later, tragedy struck. In the 2008 Olympic Trials held in November 2007 in New York City, Meb broke his hip, finishing 8th and failing to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. More tragically, following the race, Meb learned that his good friend and training partner, Ryan Shay, died of heart failure during the race. Heartbroken but undeterred, Meb spent months rehabbing his injury and just trying to walk. Amazingly, nearly two years later to the day, in the same city, Meb made an incredible comeback, winning the the New York City Marathon. Meb was the first American to win the world's largest marathon since 1982.
And the best is yet to come. The 37-year old father of three young girls heads into the 2012 London Olympics as Olympic Trials champion, with his personal best time of 2:09:08.
In this interview, a special to Gymnastike, the charming, inspirational, and extraordinarily humble Meb talks about overcoming his struggles, embodying the American Dream, his outlook for Team USA in London, training smart, his family and adorable daughters, and much more.
Meb is part of Team Citi's Every Step of the Way program, which helps support US Olympic hopefuls. Learn more about Every Step of the Way by visiting http://www.citi.com/everystep and http://www.facebook.com/citieverystep.
In part two of this series, we will highlight US Paralympic sitting volleyball player, Kari Miller.