Nick Symmonds snapped a personal drought and an American drought with a silver medal in the 800 meters at the World Track and Field Championships on Tuesday.
Ethiopian favorite Mohammed Aman won in 1 minute, 43.31 seconds, passing Symmonds on the final straightaway. Symmonds grimaced crossing the line in 1:43.55, then poked his tongue out wryly. Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman got bronze in 1:43.76.
Symmonds, 29, in his fourth World Championships, won the first U.S. medal in the event at an Olympics or worlds since Rich Kenah‘s bronze in 1997. It’s the highest an American has finished in the two-lap race at a worlds.
“I think I’d prefer gold, and I did everything I could to get it,” Symmonds told Universal Sports. “I thought I had the gold until the last 10 meters. … I raced for the gold, and I’m happy with the silver.”
Adding in Olympics, it’s the best finish since Dave Wottle‘s hat-wearing golden run at the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Both Symmonds and fellow American Duane Solomon were considered medal contenders as the top returning finishers from the 2012 Olympic final. The Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalists were missing from this year’s World Championships, including world record holder David Rudisha.
Solomon, the U.S. champion with the fastest time in the world this year, took the lead at 200 meters in Tuesday’s final and held it through 600 meters. Symmonds came side by side with Solomon at 400, taking the lead around the final turn before being passed by Aman.
Solomon faded to sixth place in 1:44.42.
Clearly, Symmonds’ pre-race strategy of taking a selfie and reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” paid off.