NEW YORK — Matthew Centrowitz has his gold medal. Soon, his dad will be wearing one for the rest of his life, too.
Last summer, Centrowitz’s father, Matt Centrowitz, told his son out of the blue that if he won a medal in the Rio Olympic 1500m, he might get a tattoo to commemorate it. And if he won gold, he would definitely get inked.
Six months later, the promise is expected to be fulfilled in Manhattan.
Centrowitz is in New York as one of 12 Olympic champions and 57 Olympians competing in the Millrose Games, the most-ever in the event’s history dating to 1908.
The Millrose Games will air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Saturday from 4-6 p.m. ET.
When Centrowitz won surprise gold in Rio, he became the first American to do so in the Olympic 1500m since 1908. His father and sister both screamed in the stands. Centrowitz did an NBC broadcast interview shirtless, showing off his chest tattoo, “Like father like son.”
Centrowitz got that tattoo about three years ago, during a six-week stretch when he couldn’t exercise due to pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining surrounding the heart with heart-attack-like symptoms.
“I was kind of freaking out, this is it for me,” Centrowitz thought. “I’m going to die. I was like, you know what, screw it, I’m going to get a tattoo. I just wanted something to symbolize our relationship.”
The Centrowitz men share so much. They’re both two-time Olympians who majored in sociology in college. Matt raced in the first round of the 1976 Olympic 1500m and would have competed in Moscow in 1980 if not for the boycott.
When Centrowitz decided he would get a tattoo, he asked his dad for suggestions.
“He was like, ugh, that’s not my taste,” Centrowitz said. “My generation, we never did stuff like that. … He always jokes, a Hallmark card would have been just fine.”
It just came to Centrowitz one day to go with “Like father like son,” which was actually the headline of a 2007 New York Times story about the runner while he was in high school.
Centrowitz revealed the tattoo on Instagram, ending the post with an apology to his mother.
Centrowitz’s dad, a New York native, was scheduled to get his first tattoo on Friday afternoon in Manhattan, but a scheduling problem may delay it. The design is of Christ the Redeemer holding a gold medal, which will go on a shoulder.
“It’s to honor my son’s gold medal. It’s a tribute to him,” said Matt Centrowitz, who recently published a book, aptly titled “Like Father, Like Son,” about his life as an Olympic runner, NCAA track coach and parent of an Olympian. “I promised it a little hastily, and then, of course, he got a gold medal. There was no choice. Whenever he wanted to cash in his win, I’m ready. Today he wants to do it.”
The 62-year-old said he was half-anticipating, half-dreading sitting down in the artist’s chair.
“I just don’t want to cry,” he joked.
Neither Centrowitz has any immediate plans to get another tattoo.
“Yeah, they’re addicting, but not for a while,” Matthew Centrowitz said. “My mom would kill me.”
Matt Centrowitz added that he would only get another tattoo if his son wins another gold medal. That’s possible, as the 27-year-old has said he could race through the 2024 Olympics.
Matthew Centrowitz’s first tattoo was the word “CITIUS” on the back of his shoulder. It’s the Greek word for “faster,” and the first word of the Olympic motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Faster, Higher, Stronger).
The elder Centrowitz was at first disgusted with the “Like father like son” tattoo but quickly got over it. He has texted his son to send him a picture of it to share with his friends. He has asked Matthew to lift his shirt in public to show strangers.
Over Christmas break, Matthew Centrowitz hosted a young runner, Cam Sorter, who created social media buzz last year for getting a tattoo of Centrowitz’s upper body on the back of his left shoulder. They spent a day working out together at Centrowitz’s base in Portland, Ore.
Sorter, a college runner, has gone on to have a strong indoor season. Centrowitz would like to believe it was inspired.
“Maybe everybody should get tattoos of me on them,” Centrowitz said.
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