San Diegan Meb Keflezighi finishes 33rd in Olympic Marathon


USA’s Mebrahtom Keflezighi celebrates crossing the finish line of the Men’s Marathon athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

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SAN DIEGO — Meb Keflezighi finished 33rd Sunday in his third and final Olympic marathon which will probably be best remembered for his doing pushups after he slipped at the soggy finish line.

Keflezighi, who resides with his family in Old Town but trains at altitude in Mammoth, completed the 26-mile, 385-yard race through the streets of Rio de Janeiro in two hours, 16 minutes, 46 seconds. Galen Rupp became the first American to medal in the event since Keflezighi won a silver medal in 2004, finishing third in 2:11:12.

Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya won in 2:08:44. Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia was second in 2:09:54.

Keflezighi completed the opening five kilometers in 15:38, bringing up the rear of the lead pack in the field of 155, the largest men’s marathon in Olympic history.

Keflezighi briefly stopped just over the half-marathon mark at 22 kilometers and appeared to struggle over the next few kilometers, trying to get back in a rhythm and losing contact with the pack, as the leaders quickly put nearly seconds of space between the back of the pack and Keflezighi.

Keflezighi qualified for a spot on the U.S. team with his second-place finish in the Olympic Marathon Trial Feb. 13 in Los Angeles, becoming at 40 the oldest male U.S. Olympic marathoner and the only one to make three Olympic marathon teams.

Keflezighi was born on May 5, 1975 in Eritrea as part of a family of 11 children. He was raised in an East African village with no electricity, where his brothers hid in the bushes so they would not be forced to join the military to fight against Ethiopia.

Keflezighi and his family moved to San Diego in 1987, graduating from San Diego High School in 1994. Keflezighi then attended UCLA, winning the NCAA indoor championships in the 5,000 meters, the outdoor  championships in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 and NCAA cross-country championship, all in 1997.

Keflezighi applied for U.S. citizenship in 1997 not knowing if Eritrea would participate in the 2000 Olympics and became a citizen the following year.

Keflezighi made his Olympic debut in 2000, finishing 12th in the 10,000 meters after winning the event at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

Keflezighi won a silver medal in the marathon in 2004, the first American man to win a medal in the marathon since Frank Shorter won a silver medal in 1976.

Keflezighi broke a hip during the 2008 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trial in New York City’s Central Park, finishing eighth, failing to make the team.

Keflezighi returned to New York City in 2009, winning the New York City Marathon in a personal-best time of two hours, nine minutes, 15 seconds. He was the first American to win the race since Alberto Salazar in 1982. No American has won since Keflezighi.

Keflezighi won the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trial in 2012 and finished fourth in the Olympics, one minute, 29 seconds behind bronze medalist Wilson Kipsang Kiprotich of Kenya. Keflezighi’s finish was the highest by an American since his third-place finish in 2004.

Keflezighi won the Boston Marathon in 2014, the first American man to do so since 1983. The victory came one year after a bombing at the race’s finish line killed three people and injured 264 others.

The Boston Marathon victory was selected by USA Track & Field, the sport’s national governing body, as the Inspirational Performance of the Year. Keflezighi was also selected to receive the Jesse Owens Award, the nation’s highest award in track and field, given annually to the year’s top American performer in track and field.

Keflezighi is the only person to win the Boston and New York City marathons and an Olympic medal.

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