ATHENS - Meb Keflezighi on Sunday became the first American man since 1976 to win an Olympic medal in the men's marathon, taking the silver at Panathenaiko Stadium.
Keflezighi (San Diego) crossed the finish line under a full moon, running 2:11:29 to place second behind Stefano Baldini of Italy (2:10:55). Vanderlei Lima of Brazil was third in 2:12:11. Americans Alan Culpepper (Lafayette, Colo., 2:15:26) and Dan Browne (Beaverton, Ore., 2:27:17) placed 12th and 65th, respectively.
The last American man to win an Olympic medal at the distance was Frank Shorter, who in 1976 won the silver. He was the 1972 gold medalist as well. Receiving his medal at Olympic Stadium during Closing Ceremonies, Keflezighi gave team USA its 25th medal of these Olympics - the most successful Olympics for Team USA track & field since 1992.
Following Deena Kastor's bronze in the women's marathon one week earlier, the United States became the only country to win medals in both the men's and women's marathons at the 2004 Olympic Games. It is the first time in history Americans have medaled in both races at the same Olympics.
Like Kastor had done, Keflezighi ran a careful, patient race when the gun went off in Marathon. He was 11th or 12th through much of the competition, coming through the halfway in 1:07:40. Had he kept that pace, he would have run 2:15:20. But like Kastor, he ran the second half much faster - 3:49 faster. By 30 km he was in 5th, and at 35 km he was fourth, having covered those 5,000m in 14:48. His final, full 5km split was his fastest, at 14:21.
One of the most dramatic moments of the Olympic Games came when Lima of Brazil, leading through 35 km, was tackled by a spectator on the course. The blow came as Lima was being reeled in by Keflezighi and Baldini, who both had passed Jon Brown of England.
Lima continued to run, but Baldini and Keflezighi were too strong. The two conversed for a time in Italian, with Keflezighi saying, "Let's go get him." They got him. A protest by the Brazilians was expected, but it would not affect Keflezighi's medal status.
The Olympic silver medal will add to Keflezighi's already robust resume, which includes three national 10,000m track titles, the American record at 10 km, two U.S. cross country titles, and numerous national road racing crowns, including four at 15 km.
Culpepper ran with Keflezighi through the half marathon before Keflezighi began his surge toward a medal. But it was a very strong race for the Olympic Trials champion, who met his goal of a time of 2:15. Browne fared less well, struggling with the heat but finishing the race as his body conspired against him in the difficult conditions.
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Olympic Men's Marathon - Team USA quotes
Meb Keflezighi, San Diego, Calif., silver medal, 2:11:29: "Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Going in I wasn't a favorite, but that's why we run the race. I'm happy to win the silver medal. USA distance running - there should be no more question about that."
On working with winner Stefano Baldini of Italy to overtake Vanderlei Lima of Brazil: "I told Baldini [in Italian], 'let's go get him.'
"It was hot and humid out there. I was prepared for the worst. I tried to do with Deena [Kastor, women's marathon bronze medalist] did - stay relaxed and keep working on it."
Alan Culpepper, Lafayette, Colo., 12th, 2:15:26: "I think the only way this could be better is if I had medaled. My goal was to run 2:15 on this course, and I did it. The first 5K was very hot. Within three minutes we were all sweating profusely. The heat was a huge factor. I drank 10 ounces of Gatorade every 5K."
On Keflezighi's medal and what it means for U.S. distance running: "It's awesome. It was just a matter of time. Some of our best runners now moved up to this distance. I'm sure today answered a lot of those questions about distance running the U.S. and will end some of those ongoing discussions about what's the matter."
Dan Browne, Beaverton, Ore., 65th, 2:27:17: "I'm pretty worked right now. It was just really hard to finish this race. I had to dig in. I think I was dehydrated pretty bad. I drank a lot, but I guess it wasn't enough."
Team USA 2004 Olympic track & field medal count
Total Medals: 25
Note: Highest Olympic medal tally since 1992 Olympic Games (30)
Men's 4x400m relay: Otis Harris (22, Columbia, S.C.); Derrick Brew (26, Baton Rouge, La.); Jeremy Wariner (20, Waco, Texas); Darold Williamson (21, Waco, Texas), 8/28
Women's 4x400m relay: Dee Dee Trotter (21, Knoxville, Tenn.); Monique Henderson (21, Bonita, Calif.); Sanya Richards (19, Austin, Texas); Monique Hennagan (28, Stockbridge, Ga.), 8/28
Tim Mack, 31, Knoxville, Tenn., MPV, 8/27
Dwight Phillips, 26, Mesa, Ariz., MLJ, 8/26/
Shawn Crawford, 26, Raleigh, N.C., M200m, 8/26
Joanna Hayes, 27, Los Angeles, W100mH, 8/24
Jeremy Wariner, 20, Waco, Texas, M400m, 8/23
Justin Gatlin, 22, Raleigh, N.C., M100m, 8/22
Meb Keflezighi, 29, San Diego, Calif., MMarathon
Men's 4x100m relay: Shawn Crawford (26, Raleigh, N.C.); Justin Gatlin (22, Raleigh, N.C.); Coby Miller (27, Pasadena, Calif.); Maurice Greene (30, Granada Hills, Calif.)
Toby Stevenson, 27, Chula Vista, Calif., MPV, 8/27
Terrence Trammell, 25, Ellenwood, Ga., M110m hurdles 8/27
John Moffitt, 23, Baton Rouge, La., MLJ, 8/26
Bernard Williams, 26, Gainesville, Fla., M200m, 8/26
Allyson Felix, 19, Santa Clarita, Calif., W200m, 8/25
Bryan Clay, 24, Azusa, Calif., MDecathlon, 8/24
Otis Harris, 22, Columbia, S.C., M400m, 8/23
Matt Hemingway, 31, Littleton, Colo., MHJ, 8/22
Lauryn Williams, 20, Miami, Fla., W100m, 8/21
Adam Nelson, 29, Athens, Ga., MSP, 8/18
Justin Gatlin, 22, Raleigh, N.C., M200m, 8/26
Melissa Morrison, 33, Columbia, S.C., W100mH, 8/24
Derrick Brew, 26, Baton Rouge, La., M400m, 8/23
Deena Kastor, 31, Mammoth Lakes, Calif., WMarathon, 8/22
Maurice Greene, 30, Granada Hills, Calif., M100m, 8/22