meb keflezghi – champion

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Meb Keflezghi celebrates his NYC Marathon victory at the top of the Empire State Building on Monday (picture was taken from the NY Times)

Just read a short, great article about Meb Keflezghi, men’s winner of Sunday’s NYC Marathon :

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/david_epstein/11/01/nyc.marathon/

After seeing Meb win in Athens in 2004, I developed a real admiration for him.  In Athens, he ran an exceedingly smart race, waiting to make his move until later – then turning the race into his.  Watching Meb hang with the lead pack on Sunday, and seeing his steady stride, you had to wonder whether he would do the same thing.  And he did.

But the thing that impresses me the most is the way he is.  He worked hard to become a champion, coming to America at age 12 from his home country of Eritrea.  He trains hard, at altitude in the Sierra Nevadas.  He’s overcome injuries, including illness and injury before and after the Olympic trials two years ago.  This is also when he lost his friend Ryan Shay to a heart ailment during the race.  I remember watching Meb do the sign of the cross as he ran through mile 25 on Sunday, and thinking he was simply giving thanks.  Instead, he was thinking about his friend Ryan Shay, who had fallen nearby. 

Meb earned his moment in the spotlight with focus and determination.  He marked his moment in the spotlight by remembering his fallen friend, and expressing joy and thankfulness.

To anyone out there tangled up in the question about whether we should call Meb the first American winner of the NYC Marathon since 1982, I’d have to ask why we wouldn’t be proud to claim such a man ?  Whether or not he’s American-born, Meb exemplifies much of the determination and character we’d like to impart to our kids, right ?  Let’s call him a champion, who by good fortune (ours and his) happens to be an American citizen.

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