Nelson’s Podium Awaits
Des Moines, Iowa — At long last, Adam Nelson will stand on the top step of the podium and hear the national anthem played in his honor.
And then, the American shot putter will take a victory lap around the stadium, bringing his two young daughters out of the stands to share in the moment.
Nine years later and more than 5,000 miles removed from Athens, the Dartmouth College-educated Nelson will be honored today at nationals as the 2004 Olympic champion.
Nelson was officially elevated to Olympic champion last month, taking the gold that was stripped from a Ukrainian rival for doping. The International Olympic Committee reallocated the medals from Athens events in which athletes were retroactively disqualified after their doping samples were retested and came back positive for steroids.
Nelson finished second in Athens behind Yuriy Bilonog, who was stripped of the gold medal by the IOC in December after his reanalyzed sample tested positive for oxandrolone.
USATF Track and Field decided to honor Nelson at nationals — and Nelson was all for it.
“I don’t think anything can compare to getting gold in that setting in Athens. That was a unique opportunity on top of a unique opportunity,” Nelson told The Associated Press in a phone interview. “But what they’re doing for me is awesome.
“To have my family and kids here to enjoy it, that will make it even more special to me. It’s going to be powerful.”
Always so emotional as a competitor, Nelson won’t make any promises of holding back the tears.
Because if the national anthem doesn’t choke him up, this almost certainly will: Grabbing his daughters, Caroline and Lauren, out of the stands and holding their hands while circling the track as the crowd cheers.
“My girls are old enough to understand what’s going on. That’s my favorite part of this moment,” said Nelson, who’s retired from competition. “This is almost like a lifetime achievement award. This is a capstone of my career.”
Fast Start: Olympic champion Aries Merritt was a little timid in his first 110-meter hurdles race in quite some time. He had no idea how his nagging right hamstring would respond.
Turns out, just fine. The world record holder felt no pain as he easily won his heat on Saturday.
“There are no problems. All systems go,” said Merritt, who clocked 13.25 seconds. “Now that I’m able to run effectively, I won’t be as timid to the first hurdle, be more aggressive.”
David Oliver had the top time, finishing in 13.14.
Short Day: World long jump champion Brittney Reese showed up at nationals simply for a little practice in front of a crowd, not with any intention to win. She’s been dealing with a slightly torn hip flexor and really hasn’t been able to train much.
Reese fouled on all three attempts and her day was done. No matter, she’s automatically qualified for the world championships in Moscow in August because she’s the reigning champ.
“I need to go back and finish getting my rhythm together,” Reese said. “I should be fine in the next couple of weeks. You want to win, but today wasn’t my day. That’s fine.”
Cool Running: Sprinter Lauryn Williams walked off the track carrying her spikes after failing to move on in the 200 meters on Saturday. She raised her hands in the air and simply said, “That’s all, folks.”
With that, the 2004 Olympic silver medalist was retired. Williams is already on the fast track to her next line of work, studying to take the exam next month to become a certified financial planner.
“I’m ready to make the transition,” she said.
On Friday, Williams finished in 11 seconds during her semifinal heat of the 100, which didn’t qualify her for the final.
“That time is not cutting it anymore,” said Williams, a former standout at the University of Miami. “I’d rather go out on my own terms than be one of those people who keeps showing up to the races and asking for a favor to get in.”
Williams doesn’t think she’s done with the sport, though. Down the road, she wouldn’t mind getting involved on the administrative side of track. There’s a spot open since Benita Fitzgerald Mosley just left as chief of sport performance at USATF to take a position with the U.S. Olympic Committee.
“Don’t know if I’m qualified,” laughed Williams, who turns 30 in September. “I’m sure I can catch up with the learning curve.”