Abdirahman reaches Olympics for 3rd time
The Arizona Republic
Jul. 5, 2008 12:00 AM
EUGENE, Ore. - The U.S. Men's Marathon Trials couldn't have gone worse for Abdi Abdirahman.
He dropped out 19 miles into the 26.2-mile race in New York because of a hip injury and his Flagstaff training partner Ryan Shay died of what was determined to be natural causes related to an enlarged heart.
On Friday night, eight months since the marathon trials, Abdirahman made up for his bad day in Central Park. The 31-year-old from Tucson led almost the entire race to win the 10,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials and qualify for the Beijing Olympics.
In winning his fourth U.S. 10,000 title, Abdirahman is believed to be only the second American man to be a three-time Olympian in the longest track race. Craig Virgin qualified for the 1976, '80 and '84 Olympics in the 10,000 but did not run at the 1980 Moscow Games because of a U.S. boycott.
Galen Rupp, a hometown favorite from the University of Oregon urged on by a sellout crowd of 20,936 at Hayward Field, took the lead briefly with two laps remaining. But Abdirahman, who ran the second fastest American 10,000 (27:16.99) here at the Prefontaine Classic on June 8, passed Rupp to win in 27:41.89. Rupp (27:43.11) and Jorge Torres (27:46.33) were the other Beijing qualifiers.
Abdirahman, who trains regularly at the High Altitude Training Center in Flagstaff, celebrated with a dip in the water used for a steeplechase jump and by tossing the sunglasses he wore for a race that began at 9:20 p.m. "I was so hot when I was running," he said. "I was on fire. I'm from Arizona so I tried to cool myself down."
Abdirahman joins Bernard Lagat (5,000) as Trials winners from Tucson. Also going to Beijing are long-jump champion Trevell Quinley and heptathlon runner-up Jacquelyn Johnson, both of Arizona State.
Two days of competition remain with Lagat trying to qualify for the 1,500. The 1,500 final is Sunday.
"I came from chasing Bernard Lagat around the track every day," Abdirahman said. "If I can keep up with Bernard, I can keep up with anyone. I was just trying to be like him, my older brother.
"The pace wasn't that fast so I didn't want to kill myself trying to push. I said let's see if they can outkick me the last lap.
"I let him (Rupp) go and stayed behind him. With 400 meters to go, I pushed a little bit, and he didn't respond."
Fasil Bizuneh, who ran at ASU and also trained some in Flagstaff, stayed with Abdirahman early before fading to 15th (28:43.11).
Abdirahman is a native of Somalia who became an American citizen in 2000. He ran for Pima Community College and the University of Arizona. He was 10th at the 2000 Olympics and 15th in 2004 then began moving up to the marathon before the setback last fall.
In the women's 5,000 final, Phoenix native Sara (Gorton) Slattery finished fourth (15:18.88) and is the Beijing alternate although she does not have the necessary "A" qualifying time.
"After the prelim, my body felt a lot better," said Slattery, who was disappointed with her seventh-place finish in the 10,000.
"This is what we've trained for. I just tried to run all the negative thoughts out of my mind. I felt composed the whole time."