SACRAMENTO— Strangely enough in track and field, it is often persona and not performance that gains athletes the most fame.
Let me explain:
The two athletes who garnered the most attention in the mixed zone in the 800 meter prelims weren’t the fastest runners. In fact, they were two of the slowest — Alysia Montano and Nick Symmonds.
Montano raced for the second time at a U.S. championships while pregnant (and visibility so). In 2014, she was 34 weeks into her pregnancy. This time around, she was almost five months pregnant.
Clad in a Wonder Woman racing top, Montano stood, as she described, as a representative for “so many different people. I represent women. I represent black women. I represent pregnant women. Not everybody has the same platform that I do. I think it’s my responsibility to make sure I’m a voice and advocate for them.”
WATCH: Clad in her Wonder Woman kit, a pregnant Alysia Montaño talks about racing for women's empowerment. #USATFOutdoors
Posted by Citius Mag on Thursday, June 22, 2017
Symmonds was in a different situation, having proclaimed Sacramento would be home to his last race as a pro runner.
Well, it turned out not to be completely true as Symmonds revealed he would be contesting the Honolulu Marathon this December, but expect that to largely be an exhibition as the half-mile specialist extends his range from 800 meters to 26.2 miles.
Nonetheless, Symmonds was his typically engaging self. He discussed what odds he thought he had of being competitive in this meet and relived the glory days of what he felt was his great accomplishment in the sport (you’ll have to watch below to find out what it was).
— CITIUS MAG (@CitiusMag) June 23, 2017
He even positioned himself as track and field’s anti-Donald Trump by praising the media not for “fake news” or “alternative facts,” but for what they do to expose runners to the broader public.
“[The media] is what allows us to have a name in the sport so companies like Brooks want to endorse us,” Symmonds said.
There’s no secret that cameras and reporters naturally gravitate to the compelling human interest story.
This seems even more so the case in track and field, where some of the the athletes with the highest name ID (i.e. Lolo Jones) are nowhere near the most accomplished on the track.
The two athletes mentioned above are perfect examples of folks who’ve supplemented stellar careers on the track with building personas off of it in order to set themselves up for life. The Alysia Montano and Nick Symmonds brands will surely go far beyond their competitive days in the sport. Would anyone be surprised if Montano becomes a renowned advocate for women’s running with something like her own website or show and Symmonds became a corporate CEO mogul?
May this be a lesson to the up-and-coming stars in the sport: Yes, make sure to build your fitness in training, but don’t neglect building your brand as well.