Shalane Flanagan won the bronze medal in last night's 10,000 meters. She finished a distant third to two phenomenal runners, Tirunesh Dibaba and Elvan Abeylegesse. And while she wasn't expected to win gold, taking the bronze medal was far from unexpected. After all, she entered the race with the fastest time of the year, and Kara Goucher had already knocked down the mental barrier of competing at the highest level over 10,000 meters with her bronze medal performance at the World Championships in Osaka. But still people will say that her medal was a "fluke".
Kara Goucher had a great quote about Shalane's performance, however.
"I hate the word 'fluke,' and since last year with my bronze medal my name has been associated with it," Goucher said. "But Shalane showed that the strength of U.S. running is no fluke."
I think she's absolutely right. There is no such thing as a "fluke" performance in distance running. In fact, I will go one step further. Those who would describe a distance running performance as a "fluke" are generally stuck in the mindset of a low achiever and can't (or won't) accept the difference between optimal preparation and execution and dumb luck.
Kara Goucher's bronze medal was not a fluke. Nor was Shalane Flanagan's. Meb Keflezighi's silver medal in the Athens marathon was not a fluke. Nor was Deena Kastor's bronze. And the rise in U.S. distance running is no fluke, either. Sure it is benefited by a few imports. But none (save Khalid Khannouchi) came here as world class athletes. They became world class athletes training in U.S. schools and competing in the U.S. system.
America will win more medals at these Olympics. Not because of dumb luck or the alignment of the stars. Because we're preparing better, training harder, and competing smarter. Because we no longer associate ourselves with second-class talent. And most of all, because runners like Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan and Meb Keflezighi and Deena Kastor don't believe in the word "fluke".