Redemption Road: Starring Michael Clarke Duncan and Morgan Uceny
2011 was a very good year for Morgan Uceny. Well, almost. Going into the World Championships in Daegu, Uceny was on a bit of a tear, to say the least. The season saw two big PBs for Uceny in both the 1500 meter run (4:00), and the 800 meter run (1:58). Her 1500 m PB also happened to be the world lead. Though it's subjective at best to say that Uceny looked the best in the 1500 m final, she did look very good. That is, until she fell. Uceny finished, but faded to 10th in the end. About 9 spots behind where she was expecting to finish.
This year hasn't been quite the same for Uceny. You really can't expect for every season to be full of personal records, but it can be tough to take a step back. While her 1500 m time from this season isn't too far off (4:01), she only managed a 2:02 for the 800 m run. Last year Uceny was toeing the line in the World Championships 1500 m run with the top time in the world; this year she's 5 seconds behind the world lead. Though there have been many suspicions about some of the top women doping (with some actually being caught), that's hardly any consolation for being 5 seconds back. It's not that Uceny hasn't had the chance to run fast, either. Her season best came in a race that saw her finish 5 seconds behind the winner in 4th place at the Roma Diamond League meeting.
I'm through being a Negative Nancy for a little while, so let's take a look at the bright side. The Olympics are not the same as a Diamond League meeting. After the rounds are over, and in the absence of any rabbits, time trialing just may not get you there. 2012 certainly hasn't been Uceny's greatest, but it's not totally void of any bright spots, either. At the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Uceny handily took down a stellar field that included Jenny Simpson, the 2011 World Champ over 1500 m. I would even go as far as to say she showed hints of the Uceny of 2011. In the opening heat of the 1500 m on Monday, Uceny looked easy in grabbing the second automatic qualification spot in her heat, and seems to be in good position for the upcoming rounds.
One thing I really love to do is draw parallels, and after the men's 1500 today I have no choice but to do so again. Up until the Olympic Trials this year, Leo Manzano wasn't exactly having his best season to date. It's been a far cry from 2010 when he ran his PB (3:32), but, much like Uceny, he had something up his sleeve and pulled out an impressive victory at the Trials over the 2011 World Championships 1500 meter bronze medalist, Matt Centrowitz. After the Trials, both Leo and Uceny headed to Europe for a few less than spectacular races. Leo only managed a 4:00 mile at the London Diamond League meeting, good for dead last. When Leo toed the line for the 1500 meter final, he was 7 seconds off of the world lead for this year, and now he's the Olympic Silver Medalist (and perhaps gold once the drug tests go through). He also ran a season best in the process.
Obviously no two people are the same, but Leo's success should provide some positive vibes for Uceny. Maybe she hasn't had the year that people were expecting, but after a year of replaying the 2011 World Championship final in her head she should be hungry for redemption. So can she pull off a medal, or even a win? We won't know until we know, but don't expect her to just hand over the race because a few of her competitors have run faster than her this year, and don't be surprised if she does it on her way to a new season or personal best. It won't be easy, but it never is. After all, the longest road in the world is the road to redemption.