LONDON — The realization of a dream. From the outside, it only took 3 minutes and 34.79 seconds for Leonel Manzano to sprint to a silver medal in the men’s 1,500 meters of the London 2012 Summer Olympics on Aug. 7.
But to those who know the former Granite Shoals resident well, the truth is it took years of dedication, hard work and determination to secure the silver medal in an event few people outside of Burnet County gave Manzano, a 2004 graduate of Marble Falls High School, a chance.
“I am honored and excited to represent both the United States and Mexico by earning this silver,” Manzano said in a statement. The long-distance runner was born in Mexico and moved to Texas with his family in 1988 at the age of 4. “Standing on the podium has been a dream of mine, and I share it proudly with my family, friends, coaches and all my supporters from Austin, Marble Falls and Granite Shoals, Texas as well as Dolores Hidalgo, Mexico.”
His finish in the Aug. 7 race was his season’s best.
“I think it’s great when you see a young man go through the hardships and stay with it and end up with the silver medal,” Marble Falls Mayor George Russell said. “It’s a tribute to him and his family.”
“Hallejuah,” said former Marble Falls Independent School District Board President Martin McLean about the finish. “That’s the best news I’ve had today. I wasn’t feeling very well earlier. Now I feel great.”
The former Mustang began the race fourth from last and was third from last after the first lap. While some were sweating about whether he could make a comeback, Manzano didn’t waiver, not even when Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi began a sprint in the final 400 meters.
Manzano began making his move to the middle of the pack and was fourth by the start of the final 100 meters.
From there, he sprinted past Abdalaati Iguider of Morocco and American teammate Matthew Centrowitz for second place and a silver medal.
“I’m almost at a loss for words,” McLean said. “He’s a very deserving young man and great athlete. Marble Falls is really proud of him. He’s a strong finisher. This is just fantastic.”
Russell said the city of Marble Falls hasn’t ruled out honoring Manzano, adding he was on his way to city hall to prepare for the Aug. 7 meeting.
“I think this is going to be celebrated beyond today,” he said.
Makhloufi, who won the gold medal in 3:34.08, had been disqualified from the games after track-and-field officials ruled he didn’t try hard enough during a heat in the 800 meters. He had already qualified for the 1,500-meter final at that stage.
But the disqualification was overturned after a medical officer reviewed the evidence, and Makhloufi made his second chance count.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.