Army race walker makes U.S. Olympic Team with 50K
January 25, 2012
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SAN ANTONIO (Army News Service, Jan. 25, 2012) -- U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program Staff Sgt. John Nunn is once again an Olympian. Nunn earned a berth in the London Olympic Games by winning the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for 50K Race Walk with a time of 4 hours, 4 minutes, 41 seconds in Santee, Calif., on Jan. 22.
Nunn, 33, of San Diego, surged during the final 1.5 kilometers to shake Tim Seaman, 39, a two-time Olympian from Imperial Beach, Calif., who finished second in 4:05:50. Ben Shorey, 29, of Kenosha, Wis., was third in 4:17:30.
Because none of the athletes met the Olympics "A" standard of 3:59, only Nunn earned a berth in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
"Yesterday was the greatest day since Athens," Nunn said via telephone on Monday, referring to his Olympic debut in the 20-kilometer race walk at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. "Yeah, I crushed them."
Five walkers stuck together through 20 kilometers before one fell off the lead pace. At 32 kilometers, another dropped off. At 36 kilometers, Shorey lost contact, leaving Nunn and Seaman to battle it out. With 13 kilometers remaining, Nunn opened a 50-meter lead with a move that almost backfired.
Nunn said his energy wavered as he neared the 41-kilometer mark.
"I was like, 'oh, no, I don't have it,'" he recalled. "My head started getting light. My arms felt like all the blood was rushing out of them. I was thinking I might pass out."
Three kilometers later, "Tim passed me like I was standing still," Nunn said. "And I was like, that's it. All this work, I can't get it back."
Seaman built a 25-meter lead and stayed there.
"All of a sudden I realized he's not advancing anymore. He used all his energy to get up to me," Nunn said. "At that point, my legs started coming back and I thought, 'let's just get up to him.'"
Nunn reeled in Seeman and the two Olympians walked side by side through 48 kilometers, setting the finish for Nunn's plan.
"I decided with 1.5 kilometers left, I would take off," Nunn said. "I wouldn't just start pulling away. I was going to drop it. And he was going to have to make a quick decision whether he wanted to try to fight to hang with me or just let me go."
When Nunn dropped the hammer, Seaman had nothing in the reserve tank. Nunn walked his last kilometer in 4:18 -- faster than he usually finishes a 20K race -- for a 1:09 margin of victory.
At the awards banquet Sunday night, Nunn told the audience, "for the first time in my life, I became a true fan of race walking today. I had a front-row seat for one of the most exciting races that has happened in decades for race walking. It felt like it was 12 rounds of a heavyweight boxing match."
Nunn commended Seaman for his effort, and applauded the Army and his coach Enrique Pena for sticking with him in times that were not fun.
"If people had been out seeing what coach and I have been doing over the past six months, I think they would be shocked with the amount of work because it wasn't just the training," said Nunn. "He is the most positive guy I have ever been around."
Nunn's 7-year-old daughter, Ella, also provided motivation for her dad -- she once climbed on his dresser and painted Olympic rings on the mirror with a magic marker.
Now Nunn is eager to take her to London. She accompanied him to Athens, but has no memory of that trip.
"We have pictures up all over the house of Ella when she was a little baby in Athens, and we've talked a lot about it," said Nunn, who has Olympic rings tattooed on his back. "Anytime anybody asks anything about it in school, Ella will raise her hand and say, 'My dad is an Olympian.'"