It’s rare that I can sit for hours in apt fascination in front of a television, but the Olympics is one of the few events that I am able to be thoroughly engrossed in the drama and spectacle — even for events that I don’t particularly follow. Naturally I watched women’s gymnastics and equestrian with great attention, along with the popular events, such as swimming. I even watched some odd events, such as skeet shooting.
But last night, Ben and I stayed up late to watch the men’s 1500 meters. Ben is a huge fan of track and field, as well as the marathon and triathlon events. I end up watching a fair amount of these events. In watching these athletes, I became a fan of Leo Manzano, a middle-distance runner. His nickname is “Little Leo” because of his height (5’5″), but I call him “Little One.”
We watched the men’s 1500 meters and I started to fret because Manzano was in the back of the pack. Ben soothed me by saying that it was still early and that it was all right. As the runners headed into the last lap, Manzano was still in the back as the front runners began picking up speed. I got worried because Manzano was slowly moving up, but not nearly fast enough for my liking. As the distance toward the finish line fell closer, Ben and I started yelling at Manzano to hurry up. With less than a quarter mile left to go, Ben muttered that it was over and Manzano gave it a good effort. But then we started to see the famous kick that Manzano was known for. Right before our eyes, he cruised pasted all the other runners except for Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi, who took gold. As Manzano outran all the other runners, Ben and I screamed and jumped in disbelief and joy. Before you know it, Little Leo took home silver.
Manzano’s past is very much an American story of how someone was able to rise from an impoverished background into a celebrated hero. It was tremendous fun watching Manzano race and I hope that one day I can see him race in person.
I love the Olympics.