Though it pains this blogger to admit it, given recent races, Galen Rupp is looking like a champion. Famed African Coach Renato Canova is quoted saying, “I put only Kenenisa, maybe one Kenyon, and I put Mo and Galen Rupp. They are the four who can look for medals, no one else.” With many of the top runners opting for the 5k or the marathon, the 10k race seems to be shaping up for Rupp to take a run at breaking the East African monopoly over 10k Olympic medals.
At last weekend’s Pre Classic Diamond League race, Galen Rupp was the first American ever to break 13:00 minutes in the 5k on American soil, and is one of only six American runners to do so in history. He now finds himself among the company of Dathan “Ritz,” Ritzenhein, Matt Tegankamp, Chris Solinsky, former American Record holder Bob Kennedy, and current American Record holder Bernard Lagat. In route to hitting the monumental time, Rupp also kicked down all-time great Kenenisa Bekele, and placed third behind world champion Mo Farah and perennial international force Isiah Koech from Kenya.
What makes Rupp such an interesting runner is that he is quite polarizing. Starting out initially as a soccer player in high school, as a prep, Rupp was taken under the wing of famed (and current) coach Alberto Salazar. He has been under the tutelage of Nike since before he was 18, and even trained in Portland with a different coach while attending the University of Oregon in Eugene. Antics such as these, as well as pulling out of races do to “high pollen levels,” or wearing face masks to stave off pollen intake, leave many questioning Rupp's heart and toughness.
Many believe that he has only reached the level which he's at due to having every advantage, from high-altitude living tents, to underwater treadmills for zero impact training. In a sport dominated by East Africans with heart wrenching stories of war and poverty, seeing an all-American runner who has grown up with a preverbal silver running spoon doesn’t garner much support. This is even more true when many runners in the U.S. are hitting insanely fast times, winning national titles, and still getting dropped by sponsors (i.e Meb Keflezighi and Scott Baughs).
Though Rupp may not be a favorite among distance running fans (though some do adore him) this run shows he is fit. In fact, Rupp may be at a level no American has been at in decades. The last 10k medal an American won in the Olympics came in 1964 in the Tokyo games at the hands of Billy Mills. As much as I love to (as well as many who frequents www.letsrun.com) hate on Rupp, he is fit. He is a contender, and really, Rupp is ready to roll at this summer’s Olympic games.