From 1-35: We Rank The US Mid-D And Distance Olympians' Odds For A Medal At The 2012 Olympic Games

August 1, 2012

We've always said the best part about running is you - the people who come and visit every day. Our visitors are the most passionate and knowledgeable track and field fans on the planet. To prove that point, we wanted to share with you a great email we got the other day from an 2012 US Olympic Trials participant who asked to remain anonymous. He wrote in about how exciting the 2012 Olympics are for US mid-d and distance fans:

      I was browsing through the entry list for the Olympics and wanted to point something out. For the men, only Kenya and the USA earned a full slate of entries for each event from 800m through the marathon to include the 3,000m Steeplechase. Starting at 1,500m and going up, only Ethiopia is added to the list. Think about how much emphasis USA athletes, coaches, media, fans, etc. have put on bringing this country back to a prominent place in distance running. I thought this entry list proved two things. First, it's extremely difficult to have three "A" qualifiers in multiple events, let alone several events in succession. Second, the USA men are not in a distance running resurgence. They are firmly back where they belong as a world power, and a serious threat for medals in every middle-distance and distance event. These Olympics will hopefully be impressive for the US not only on the entry list, but in medal count as well. When was the last time you could look at each event 800m on up, and point to one or more US men who have a great chance at a medal? No matter what the outcome in London, the things the USA men are doing in all aspects of training and racing are working, and all signs point to continued improvement. That's a really cool thought!

The email certainly is a good one, as it got to realize that the US fans do have a lot of reasons to dream of an Olympic medal in a mid-d or distance event, particularly on the men's side, where there is a theoretical chance for a medal in every event.

We could see a medal coming from the following men:
800: Nick Symmonds
1,500: If healthy, Centrowitz or Wheating for sure, but Manzano did beat them at the Trials
Steeplechase: Evan Jager
5,000: Galen Rupp and Bernard Lagat
10000: Galen Rupp
Marathon: Ryan Hall

That certainly is a positive development as people may not realize how uncommon it is for a US man or woman to win a mid-d or distance medal at the Olympics. We did a little research to show you when the last time a US man or woman won a medal in the various mid-d and distance events:

Last Time An American Won A Mid-D Or Distance Medal

Event Men Women
800 1992 - Johnny Gray (Bronze) 1988 - Kim Gallagher (Bronze)
1,500 1968 - Jim Ryun (Silver) Never
Steeple 1984 - Brian Diemer (Bronze) Never
5,000 1964 - Bob Schul (Gold)
1964 - Bill Dellinger (Bronze)
10,000 1964 - Billy Mills (Gold) 2008 - Shalane Flanagan (Bronze)
Marathon 2004 - Meb Keflezighi (Silver)* 2004 - Deena Kastor

*1976 - Frank Shorter (Silver) - is the last time a non-naturalized citizen won a medal in the marathon.

And that thought got us to thinking - how realistic is it that a US athlete actually medals in a middle distance or distance event in 2012?

As a result, we decided to rank all of the US mid-d and distance Olympians from highest to lowest in chances of winning a medal. It may not have been the smartest thing to do, as we're sure this list is bound to anger all of the US elites, but we found it to be a fascinating intellectual exercise. And if you are a US Olympian, please don't get mad - get even. Use the list as motivation. visitors, we encourage you to make your own list and put your top 10 American mid-d and distance hopefuls up on the message board with a percentage chance next to their name. Post your list here:

MB: Rank The 2012 US Mid-d & Distance Track & Field Olympians 1-35 On Their Odds of Medalling in London

Chances That They Medal At The 2012 Olympics

Up To 30% (Up To 1 Out Of 3?)
1. Galen Rupp - He has two chances to medal and in the 10,000, the Kenyan and Ethiopians squads aren't very credentialed at all on the track. Only one Kenyan, Moses Masai, and one Ethiopian, Kenenisa Bekele, has ever medalled before in the 10,000 and both of those guys don't seem to be in their prime. To be truthful, he is the only American-born athlete (maybe Lagat as well) we can really imagine winning gold. While we say he has two chances to medal, can anyone really see him doing it in the 5,000 if he doesn't first medal in the 10,000? Rupp rarely finishes in the top 3 in international races, but appears to be at another level in 2012. Updated: It looks like the oddsmakers agree with us, as you can get 3-1 that Rupp gets a medal.
2. Evan Jager - On paper, it looks like there are at most five guys who should beat him if everyone has a great day. If one of the Kenyans falters, watch out, and Kemboi was recently in prison. Updated: Oddsmakers have Jager at 5-1 for top three.

Up To 25% (Up To 1 In 4?)
3. Bernard Lagat - This may seem low for a fairly recent world champion, but the competition is very, very tough, as the Ethiopians are young and very good, plus there is Farah and a few Kenyans. Didn't medal in 2008 at age 33. Why should it happen at age 37? He did win the World Indoor title this year at 3,000m, but has not done much outdoors. He did get silver last year outdoors, so we can see why people might want to rank him #1 on the list.
4. Nick Symmonds - Making the final is tough, but once he's there he's got a decent shot.

Up To 15% (1 In 7?)
5. Morgan Uceny - Despite being world #1, it's hard to see her medalling 1 out of 5 times, as 11 women have broken 4:00 this year. Let's hope the drug testers are good and then her odds go way up. On fitness, Flanagan might deserve to be the top US women's hope, but falls are way more common in the 1,500 and could benefit Uceny here. After all, she got screwed by a fall last year.

Up To 10% (1 In 10?)
6. Shalane Flanagan - She's very good, but the field is so, so loaded. Already had a magical Olympics four years ago.
7. Matt Centrowitz - Great at tactics and he upset the form charts last year and medalled. It's a shame he got hurt.
8. Ryan Hall - He's 1 for 8 in his career at getting top three at a Major or Olympic Games. That's 12.5%.
9. Jenny Simpson - Won it all last year and did beat Uceny in her last race.

Up To 5% (1 In 20?)
10. Duane Solomon - 3rd fastest guy coming in. Maybe we should have him at 10%.
12. Alysia Montano - Was running great earlier in year but last race was very bad. If she looks good in first round, bump this up to 25%.
12. Andrew Wheating - Has run 3:30 in the past but we just don't think he's healthy and in form.
13. Shannon Rowbury - Won bronze in past.
14. Kara Goucher - Medalled in 10,000 in past. Has done well in World Marathon Majors.

Up To 2% - (1 In 50? Some Tiny Chance)
15. Leo Manzano - Make the final and hope for a fall. He challenged Kiprop a couple of years ago twice.
16. Donn Cabral - Run 8:15 and hope for a pileup involving Jager and the Kenyans.
17. Lopez Lomong - Make the final and hope for some falls or DQs.
18. Khadevis Robinson - Make the final and who knows what happens?
19. Abdi Abdirahman - Might have the talent to do it.
20. Emma Coburn - Make the final and hope for some pileups on the barriers.

0% - Everyone Else (Maybe 1 In 1,000)
Men: Kyle Alcorn, Matt Tegenkamp, Dathan Ritzenhein, Meb Keflezighi (injured).
Women: Alice Schmidt, Geena Gall, Bridget Franek, Shalaya Kipp, Julie Culley, Molly Huddle, Kim Conley, Amy Hastings, Lisa Uhl, Janet Bawcom, Desi Davila (injured).

People may think our odds are low, but if you are a stat guy you will see that if we give Rupp and Jager 30% chances of medals, it means that there is basically a 50% chance (.7 x 7 = .49) that one of them medals.

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