Brenda Martinez’s emotional week at Olympic Trials ends in triumph
Brenda Martinez was about half a lap from qualifying for her first Olympic team when her feet got tangled with Alysia Montaño’s.
Martinez was able to regain her balance, but not before four other runners passed her, dashing her Olympic hopes in the 800m.
Refusing to feel sorry for herself, Martinez began preparing for her next race at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, the 1500m.
She returned to the track three days later, on July 7, and won her first-round heat of the 1500m. The next day, she won her semifinal heat.
After the 1500m semifinal, Martinez spoke with NBC’s Lewis Johnson and refused to blame Montaño, who appeared to initiate the contact. Instead she called the adversity “a blessing in disguise.”
“The track doesn’t care about your feelings,” Martinez said. “You’ve just got to move forward.”
In the 1500m final on Sunday, Martinez’s Olympic hopes seemed to be in jeopardy once again. She seemed to stumble multiple times and was in sixth place entering the final lap, knowing that the top three finishers would qualify to run at the 2016 Olympics.
“I just kept telling myself not to give up,” Martinez said, according to USATF.
With 200m to go, Martinez was still in fifth. She passed Alexa Efraimson, and, as she approached the finish line, she was running stride for stride with Amanda Eccleston for third place. The two runners both dived across the finish line, knowing that only one would go to Rio.
In a photo finish, the clock read 4:06.16 for Martinez and 4:06.19 for Eccleston.
Gasping for air on the track, Martinez buried her face in her hands, afraid to look and see whether she claimed the third and final Olympic spot in the 1500m.
Jenny Simpson, who won the race, ran over to Martinez and delivered the good news, exclaiming “I’m so proud of you!” Then Simpson helped Martinez, a fellow New Balance athlete, to her feet.
Watch Martinez qualify to go to the 2016 Olympics here: