By Jim Misunas
The recent dead heat between two U.S. women sprinters at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials brings to mind the memory of 2008 Olympian Christian Smith.
The Pawnee Heights High School graduate had a similar dead heat finish with U.S. 800-meter favorite Khadevis Robinson. The NCAA champion at Kansas State University dived across the finish line in his most memorable finish in the 2008 Olympic Trials at Eugene, Ore.
“I wasn’t even sure if I was third or fourth. I didn’t think a lean would be enough, so I dove,” Smith said. “I didn’t want to face the possibility of coming so close and not making the team, so I laid there on my stomach for about 15 seconds.”
Smith’s time of 1:45.47 was .06 seconds faster than Robinson for the third and final spot in the 800 meters at the Beijing Olympics. His time was just fast enough by a half of a second to make the Olympics.
When interviewed by NBC-TV, Smith related how he was stunned to beat the best U.S. 800-meter runner for third place.
“I can’t believe it right now,” he said. “I knew it was possible, but to actually do it — is unbelievable. I didn’t know I did it, until I got up and saw it.”
At the Beijing Olympics, Smith did not make it to the semifinals. But he said the experience of the Olympic Opening Ceremonies was priceless where he shook hands with the President, and met swimmer Michael Phelps and LeBron James.
“It means more today than four years ago,” said Smith. “I would go home and see signs and see what it meant to my parents, extended family and community. I truly know what the Olympics mean to people of the United States. I hope I’m an example to young kids that dreams can be realized.”
Smith, 28, competed in his third Olympic Trials at Eugene, Ore. last weekend. Smith placed sixth in his heat with a time of 1:49.02, which did not advance to the semifinals. Smith, who resides in Manhattan, qualified for the trials June 16 at Indianapolis with a time of 1:47.44.
“After Christian finished the race in Eugene, he bent over and kissed the track — because he knew it was his last race,” said Tom Smith, his father who works for a brokerage firm in Larned. “He thought Indianapolis would be his last race, but he surprised himself. On behalf of his family, Christian wishes to thank everyone for their support over the years.”
Tom Smith and his wide Ann traveled to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games.
“It was a great experience and the Chinese people were great and made a great impression,” Tom Smith said.
Smith was a five-time All-American and a 2006 NCAA champion in the indoor mile. He became the collegiate record holder in the indoor 1,000 meters and held school records in the 1,000 indoor, the outdoor 800 and 1,500 meters from 2003 through 2006.
Tom Smith said Christian has worked as an intern with the Kansas State athletic department and volunteers his time as a track coach for Kansas State.