Editor’s Note: Vermonter Andrew Wheating will compete in the mens’ 1500m semifinals today at 3:15 p.m. Eastern time.
By Shira Springer
The Boston Globe
LONDON — “I’m in?” asked Andrew Wheating. “I’m the last guy in?”
When word came that Wheating qualified for the 1,500-meter semifinals, that was his shocked reaction Friday evening. After battling plantar fasciitis in his left foot for the past month, he didn’t know what to expect when he stepped on the Olympic Stadium track before 80,000 spectators. The chance to race again at the London Olympics came with equal parts disbelief and relief for Wheating, especially since the runner from Norwich, Vt., was indeed the last qualifier.
He placed seventh in his Round 1 heat, but advanced on time with a 3:40.92 finish. It was the first time Wheating moved past the preliminary round in a major international competition. American teammates Leo Manzano and Matt Centrowitz also advanced to the semifinals. Manzano placed sixth in the first heat in 3:37.00 and was an automatic qualifier. Centrowitz placed fifth in the third heat in 3:41.39 and was also an automatic qualifier. The semifinals take place today.
“I was sitting here waiting to be told I didn’t make it and I was like, ‘Don’t cry, just don’t cry,’ ” said Wheating, eliciting a laugh from a crowd of reporters. “Now, it’s like, ‘OK, I know what it feels like to race again. Now, how am I going to take what I learned today and apply it to (the semifinals)?’ . . . It’s a matter of running with confidence. I’ve got to find my full confidence and run with it.”
Despite advancing, Wheating, 24, did not have his full confidence Friday. Trying to take advantage of his long stride and escape the typical jostling in the event, the 6-foot-5-inch Wheating took to the lead early. But it wasn’t long before the rest of the field started to move and get away from him. At that point, Wheating decided not to press because he hadn’t raced in more than a month due to his foot injury. Wheating has been dealing with what he called a “nasty plantar problem” since the Olympic trials.
“I’ve been swimming more miles than I’ve been running,” said Wheating. “So, I wanted to try and utilize as much speed as I could without putting it all out there to just stay in the lead pack. Sadly, it came down to the last 200 and I was just trying to make up ground. I didn’t run with enough confidence.
“I tried to run a very comfortable race or else I was using energy in places I don’t want to. It was tactical. It was kind of how I wanted it to be, but I haven’t been able to do enough speedwork in the last month.”
Now, he has the somewhat unexpected task of strategizing for the semifinal. When asked about his plan for the next round, Wheating answered with typical candor.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” said Wheating. “I’m not quite sure. We planned to get to the semifinals, but (coach) Vin (Lananna) and I discussed it and we’re like, ‘Let’s not look to the semifinals. Let’s not look to the finals. It’s only one race at a time.’ One race is down.”
As a 20-year-old track phenom running the 800 at the Beijing Olympics, Wheating was overwhelmed by the experience, in awe of the celebrity US athletes such as LeBron James and Michael Phelps. He did not advance out of his preliminary heat. He arrived in London determined to make more of his Olympic experience on the track. He also has a different mind-set the second time around.
“I was talking with (US decathlete) Ashton (Eaton) the other day,” said Wheating. “We were talking about how the total pressure was at the Olympic trials and how this was about having fun and racing and competing. Regardless of the result, you’re still going to be an Olympian. I’m going to be a two-time Olympian. He’s still going to be a world record holder. Nothing is going to change. We’re just going to have an opportunity to gain a lot more. That’s exactly the mentality I took going into this. Now that I’ve successfully gotten to the next round, I’ve got to keep the mentality going, just have fun and run with confidence.”MORE IN Sports WireINDIANAPOLIS — Katherine Legge didn’t know she’d have a shot at the Indianapolis 500 until it was... Full StoryDENVER — Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy is returning to the Colorado Avalanche as their head coach. Full Story
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