Updated Monday 2:11 p.m.
When the preliminary heats of the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase go off at the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon, Monday night, two-time U.S. Olympian Anthony “Fam” Famiglietti won’t be on the starting line. But he thinks he should be.
The Davidson-based runner was not among the 24 steeplechase runners accepted into the trials based on times this season. Fam ran his fastest 2012 race, 8:37.38, in Nashville on June 2. That didn’t meet the 8:32 “A” standard for automatic entry in the trials, and missed the top 24 by about one-half second.
That’s a disappointment for Famigilietti, 33, who moved to Davidson last year to train for the trials, which are being held this week. He competed for the USA in both the Athens and Beijing games and was hoping for a shot at this third Olympics this summer.
The 3,000-meter steeplechase is a specialty event – a 1.7-mile run around a track dotted with five 36-inch-high wooden hurdles. The fifth of the five barriers is a water jump, standing at the edge of a 12-foot-long water pit.
Famiglietti was second in the 2004 Olympic trials and won the 2008 trials. In Athens, he finished 8th in the preliminary round, after hitting a hurdle. In Beijing, he was 13th overall in a personal best 8:17.
On the one hand, Famiglietti understands that his time wasn’t good enough to qualify for the trials. “Unfortunately for me, from the races that I did, and the way the paces were with the other athletes, it didn’t work out for me to run that half-second faster,” Famiglietti said Monday afternoon.
He said Monday he already was making plans for other races this summer, and getting ready for the birth of his first child in July.
What has Fam and his fans steamed is that the sport’s governing body, USA Track & Field, let another past Olympian and national champion into the trials, ahead of faster qualifiers – presumably because of his track record. Nike-sponsored runner Alan Webb was selected to run in the 5,000 meters, even though his time was slower than more than a dozen other runners not accepted.
“I was already making other race plans, but then I saw Alan Webb win his appeal, so quickly,” Famiglietti said. So he decided, “Let’s see how their appeals process works.”
But USATF denied Famiglietti’s appeal to run the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
“I was faced with an unusual situation with USA Track & Field from the beginning,” Famiglietti said. “It wasn’t handled properly.” So he began putting the word out to his fans and followers.
But in series of Tweets on his “Reckless Running” Twitter account over the past week he has complained about not being admitted to the field. On June 22, he wrote: “My appeal to run the Olympic Trials steeple has been denied. Somehow they let Alan Webb in the 5k with slowest time in entire field. Just saying.”
A horde of fans have messaged their support for the six-time national champion, and some have called or emailed USA Track & Field to voice their concern. But with the Olympic trials qualifying race scheduled Monday night, there’s no hope. And the $1,500 cost for arbitration is a steep price for Famiglietti, who is independent, self-financed and running without a big sports company sponsor.
“I had to let people know what was going on,” Famiglietti said of his social media campaign. He spoke up, he said, in part to help other athletes, and he’s continuing his efforts to help change the sport. “It’s happened to many other athletes before.”
Famiglietti said he’s comfortable with his role as a sort of maverick, speaking out about problems with the system that he has been a part of through almost three Olympic cycles.
“Buying into the system that already exists doesn’t help to change it. Signing on with Nike and the sports agent that got Alan Webb into the trials doesn’t change it,” he said.
As a leading runner with no corporate sponsor and no professional agent he thinks he has a good perch to help lead change.
USA Track & Field website, with official information and results from this week’s Olympic Track & Field Trials. USATF.org
USATF.org entry page for men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase.
June 23, 2012, Atlascoached.com, “Operation Fam and Furious”
April 18, 2012, DavidsonNews.net, “Fleet-footed Olympian ‘Fam’ finds a home in Davidson.”
JULY 4th 4-MILER IN CHARLOTTE
The race on Wednesday, July 4, will use a new course in the Elizabeth Neighborhood, near American Legion Memorial Stadium. Proceeds from the event will support the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte.
The race replaces the Run For Your Life 4 Miler typically held in mid-July. Geared for runners of all ages and abilities, families and baby joggers, the four-mile run starts at 7:30A a.m. and includes a “Loop the Stadium” 1K Fun Run at 8:15 a.m.
For those who register for the 4-miler between now and June 17 can buy three entries and get one free. Register online or at any four Run For Your Life locations. All four participants must be registered at one time and all three entries must be paid at the same time.
Entry fees are: Thru June 30: 4 Miler-$20; K-12 $15; 1K $5; July 1-3: 4 Miler-$25; K-12 $20; 1K $5; Race Day: 4 Miler-$35; K-12 $30 and 1K $5. Online registration is available until July 2 and in-person registration is available at all four Run For Your Life locations.
The event will feature post-race activities and booths hosted by local businesses at Memorial Stadium located at 301 North Kings Drive in Charlotte. Details are available at http://www.runforyourlife.com/Events/spectacular4miler/.
July 4 – July 4th Spectacular 4-Miler, Charlotte – See info above
July 13 – Streetlight 5K Concord, NC – email firstname.lastname@example.org
Aug. 25 – OrthoCarolina Classic 5K 10K, Charlotte – email email@example.com
Sept. 1 – Andrew Lovedale 5K, Davidson College
Sept. 8, Historic Mooresville 5K, Mooresville
Sept. 15 – Run for Green 5K, 10K, and half marathon – Davidson Village Green, info on DavidsonLands.org
Sept. 29 – Fire 5K, Ada Jenkins Center, Davidson
Dec. 8 – Birkdale Village runs, Huntersville