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Leo Manzano, Olympic 1500m silver medalist, retires

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Leo Manzano, who moved from sixth coming around the final curve of the 2012 Olympic 1500m to take silver, has retired at age 34, citing several reasons including a calf injury and a desire to spend more time with his family, specifically 6-year-old son Max.

Manzano said he felt calf tightness while cooling down after a November workout. It was later diagnosed, after multiple doctor visits and to a chiropractor, as a calf heart attack. He decided to retire in February.

“I started coming to these realizations,” Manzano said. “I’m 34 and, looking back, man it’s just been so good [running for two decades], but right now my body is definitely telling me something. I knew I could potentially compete to fight to get through it, but I’m really happy with where I am, and I want to focus a little bit more on what’s next.”

That includes continuing with sponsor Hoka One One as an ambassador and moving into athlete representation. Manzano said he is certified through the IAAF and USA Track and Field.

Manzano was a surprise podium placer at the 2012 London Games, taking the first U.S. medal in the event for a man or woman since Jim Ryun in 1968. He came into the Games ranked outside the top 20 in the 1500m field on fastest times for the year.

But then Manzano passed nine men in the last lap of the final, finishing .71 behind Algerian winner Taoufik Makhloufi.

“The first word that comes to mind is just incredible,” Manzano remembered Sunday. “Even thinking back on it I’m still kind of in awe, maybe a little bit of a shock, right?

“Forever it’ll be one of those races that I still look back on it, and I even get a little motivation out of it as well when things aren’t going right.”

Manzano was born in Guanajuato, Mexico. His father, Jesus, crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico into Texas 16 times searching for work and returning with money to his family until, in 1987, he acquired legal residency. The Manzanos settled in Texas when Leo was 4, and he became a citizen in 2004.

Manzano, at 5 foot 5 with a trademark furious kick, went on to win the 2008 NCAA 1500m at Texas, make his first Olympics in 2008 (eliminated in the semifinals) and win the 2012 Olympic Trials.

After his Olympic silver, Manzano made world championships teams in 2013 and 2015, then was fourth at the 2016 Olympic Trials. He counted taking second at 2013 USATF Outdoors, while unsponsored, and clocking his personal best 3:30.98 in 2014 (fifth-fastest performer in U.S. history) as his two highlight races outside of the 2012 Olympics.

Manzano’s last race was at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships, where Manzano was eighth in his first-round heat.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff set Australian Open duel

Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff
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Naomi Osaka and Coco Gauff will meet in the third round of a second straight Grand Slam, this time at the Australian Open on Friday.

Osaka, the defending champion and world No. 4, and Gauff, the 15-year-old American phenom, each won second-round matches in Melbourne to reach the final 32.

Osaka swept Chinese Zheng Saisai 6-2, 6-4 on a windy Wednesday afternoon. Later, Gauff followed her first-round win over Venus Williams by eliminating Romanian veteran Sorana Cirstea 4-6, 6-3, 7-5.

“I know what to expect,” Gauff said. “I’m excited.”

Osaka beat Gauff 6-3, 6-0 in the U.S. Open third round on Aug. 31. In the most memorable moment of that night, Osaka urged Gauff to share the on-court victor’s interview at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“It’s better than going into the showers and crying,” Osaka told Gauff in front of a packed crowd. “Let these people know how you feel.”

Gauff obliged after at first declining.

“I’m not the type of person who wants to cry in front of everyone,” she said later. “I didn’t want to take that moment away from [Osaka], as well.”

Gauff, ranked No. 684 at this time last year, is now No. 67. She broke through by beating Williams in the Wimbledon first round, then reaching the round of 16.

Gauff won a lower-level WTA Tour event in October and now ranks fifth in U.S. Olympic singles qualifying. The top four after the French Open qualify for the Tokyo Games, though Gauff has fewer than half the points as No. 4 Alison Riske.

“It’s been really cool to watch her grow because it’s happened so fast,” Osaka said.

AUSTRALIAN OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women

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John Isner leaning toward skipping Olympics again

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John Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. male singles tennis player, is considering skipping the Olympics for a second straight time.

“I haven’t put a ton of thought into it, but as of right now, I think I’m leaning towards not playing,” the 19th-ranked player said at the Australian Open on Tuesday. “It’s about scheduling. I know the Olympics, it’s a fantastic honor. There’s no doubt about that. … Right now, at this stage in my career, it’s not a huge priority for me. So that’s probably the main reason I won’t be going. I certainly love playing in the summer in America, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The Tokyo Games take place the same week as a lower-level ATP Tour event in Atlanta that Isner, a former University of Georgia star, has won five times.

Other notable male players already said they will pass on Tokyo, including Sam Querrey, the top American in Olympic qualifying standings.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, is prioritizing an ATP event in Kitzbühel the week of the Olympics. The U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan are not planning to play the Olympics in their final season before retirement, their manager said in November.

“The Olympics is very tough on the schedule … especially with Davis Cup,” Isner said in 2016, according to USA Today. “I think the fact that they have no [ATP ranking] points [at the Olympics], to be honest, was a pretty big factor as well. Obviously the Olympics is not about the money, but no points I think hindered me a bit.”

Isner, who turns 35 on April 26, is likely giving up his last chance to play Olympic singles. In his only Olympic participation, he reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Games, plus lost an opening-round doubles match there with Andy Roddick.

The top four U.S. men qualify for Tokyo, assuming they are among the top 60 overall qualifiers (maximum four per country) after this spring’s French Open.

Taylor FritzReilly Opelka, Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul are the U.S. men currently in Olympic qualifying position if excluding Querrey and Isner.

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