Wednesday, November 30, 2011

1992 Olympic 1500m

This one always cracks me up.

Barcelona Olympics, 1992, and the men's 1500m race. Lots of Africans, an American, and a non-descript hometown Spanish boy named Fermin Cacho, definitely the crowd favorite.

I had never heard of this guy, but I had been away from track for a decade. Before the gun, he looks like the kid in the neighborhood who always wanted to play but was never picked for a team. I could just see him with his hand in the air, yelling "Me! Take Me!"

He's looking around, wide-eyed, floppy head of hair, the token Spainard in his hometown Games.

The gun. First couple of laps are slow, as the 1500 usually is. No one wants to lead, everyone is biding their time until 600m to go. Then it heats up. But our hero is stuck on the rail, absolutely buried in 4th place with a guy on his right hip, a guy just behind that, and 3 guys ahead.

He's screwed. He's absolutely screwed.

They pass the finish line, one lap to go, and the pace starts screaming. 300m left, the poor guy is still pinned on the inside with a handful of guys to his right. No path, no escape. And he's over-striding like a madman, knowing that he's about to get gapped.

Now he's the little brother trying to keep up with the older kids, and they are about to leave him behind. You can almost see his eyes get bigger, and you can't help but feel for the guy. It's no use trying to keep up with the best African runners in a middle distance event, especially at the Olympics. 250m left, and there's no hope.


The leader begins to tire and begins a slight drift to the right as they approach the turn. A small alley opens along the inside.

Cacho is fairly thin. He basically turns sideways, squirts through the opening, and keeps going.

Did I mention he's a Spanish guy running in Barcelona? Around the last turn, the crowd is going nuclear.

This is what always cracks me up. He takes the lead, he's still over-striding, yet he's pulling away ever so slightly, with a look on his face like he's late for school or something.  How do I know he's out of his league? Because he looks over his shoulder at least 9 times in the last 150 meters!! He knows they're coming back at him.

Except they're not.

This is a guy scared for his life but not waiting around for the wolves to attack. He's gone. With 10m to go, the game is over and he throttles down with his arms in the air. The stadium implodes.

I still don't believe it.

But every time I shake my head, I check the clock. This unknown overachiever ran a 50-second last lap, and his last 700m were at 1:46 half mile pace. I guess he earned that medal.

And he came back 4 years later to win a silver. Nice set of hardware, Senor Cacho.