Olympian Meb Keflezighi throws support behind Atlanta for 2020 Marathon time trials

Credit: JuliaKate E. Culpepper/ AJC

Credit: JuliaKate E. Culpepper/ AJC

The USA Track and Field site selection committee visited Atlanta Tuesday to see the Atlanta Track Club’s proposed accommodations and course for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon.

Atlanta is one of four sites being considered for the 2020 marathon trials hosting honor ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics along with Austin, Chattanooga and Orlando.

The selection committee, which has already visited Chattanooga and will travel to Austin Tuesday night, concluded their tour under the Olympic rings and Atlanta Olympic Cauldron Tower in downtown Atlanta with a surprise visit by four-time Olympian and 2004 silver medalist Meb Keflezighi.

The retired Keflezighi, 42, surprised the committee to advocate on behalf of Atlanta— a city that catalyzed his passion for the Olympics.

As a student-athlete at UCLA in 1996, Keflezighi remembers watching the Olympic Games in Atlanta and wanting desperately to travel to be a part of history. After immigrating with his family to America from Eritrea in 1987, Keflezigki couldn’t afford the trip across the country, but was brought an Olympic T-shirt by former teammate Rafer Johnson. The small memento the event was enough to spark his goal of becoming an Olympian.

Out of the four host cities, only Atlanta can provide the Olympic history to remind marathon runners of their goal as they compete.

“I think the bid for 2020 makes sense to have it in Atlanta especially when you see those rings,” Keflezighi said. “When I was training at the Olympic Training Center for my first Olympics and many other Olympics in the future, whenever I see those rings, it triggers why you train. When it’s raining, it’s snowing or it’s hot, when you think of that, you think about ‘I’m training for a purpose.’”

Credit: JuliaKate E. Culpepper/ AJC

Credit: JuliaKate E. Culpepper/ AJC

According to Adam Schmenk, managing director of events and entertainment properties and broadcasting for USATF who was in Atlanta Tuesday, the proposed course went through the city and was rich with the character and history of Atlanta. However, the biggest factor for the selection committee is the overall experience for each athlete, including arrival, accommodations and the city’s embrace of the event.

The first Peachtree Road Race winner Jeff Galloway also surprised the selection committee Tuesday to embody the passion the city and runners of Atlanta have for an event such as an Olympic trial.

A member of the 1972 U.S. Olympic Team in the 10,000 meters and a graduate of The Westminster Schools, Galloway has seen the passion for running in Atlanta grow over the 60 years he’s been running in the city.

“I just want to show that we have the best city in the U.S. to stage such an event as the Olympic trials… I can tell you that the passion of the citizens of Atlanta and the running community is higher than I have ever seen it anywhere else,” Galloway said.

The USATF Board of Directors will select the host city for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon in the spring.