MOSCOW — As Matthew Centrowitz raced around the final bend, about to accelerate into his finishing kick, his dad’s TV went blank.
Of the millions of people who watched the 23-year-old Annapolis, Md., native surge for a silver medal Sunday in the men’s 1,500 meters at the world championships, his father wasn’t one of them.
“Our feed died with about 200 (meters) to go,” said Matt Centrowitz, a former U.S. team member who was back home in Washington, D.C., and trying to watch the race on television at a local sports bar. “We didn’t see the finish.”
If he did, he would have been proud. Instead, he had to wait a minute or two.
Two years after coming out of nowhere to win the bronze medal at the 2011 worlds in South Korea, Centrowitz did one better at Luzhniki Stadium — the same venue that his father, a 5,000-meter runner on the boycotting 1980 U.S. Olympic team, never got to experience.
“This buzz cut is a tribute to him,” said the younger Centrowitz, sporting a shaved head that makes him look a bit like a marine. “It’s still weird coming into this country and this venue, knowing that he would’ve raced here, 30-some years ago.
“Getting that silver medal was sweet enough.”
Centrowitz started off the race in the middle of the pack, but pushed his way up among the leaders with two laps to go. By the last lap, he was comfortable in third place, right behind eventual champion Absel Kiprop of Kenya.
As they made the turn to the finishing straight and the TV in Washington lost its signal, Kiprop finally overcame Kenyan teammate Nixon Chepseba. Centrowitz, seeing his opening, followed right behind.
A surprise silver two years after a bronze.
“I don’t want to say it right now, but a little disappointed not coming away with the gold, because I’m a competitive guy,” Centrowitz said. “Getting silver to Kiprop is gold any other day.”
The 1,500 is as much about tactics as it is about speed. Runners can win and lose medals depending on where they are when everyone starts to sprint for the line.
Centrowitz got a little lucky on Sunday.
“I’m sitting on the inside, can’t get out. I’m starting to panic, half focus,” Centrowitz said. “I figured there would be a gap to open up. Fortunately, there was.”
Kiprop won in 3 minutes, 36.28 seconds, and Centrowitz was next, half a second behind in 3:36.78. Johan Cronje of South Africa ended up with bronze, only five hundredths of a second back. Chepseba, who led for most of the race, finished out of the medals, a further four hundredths of a second behind Centrowitz.
The elder Centrowitz, a longtime track and cross-country coach at American University in Washington, missed all the drama of the final seconds. But, in the Internet age, it didn’t take him long to find out what happened.
“Oh man, I’m really proud,” he said. “It’s the highlight of his life. A silver medal in worlds? Just incredible.”
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