RIO DE JANEIRO -- After finishing eighth in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase on Wednesday, Aug. 17, at the 2016 Olympic Games, Sgt. Hillary Bor praised the U.S. Army for renewing his running career.
"I want to thank the Army," said Bor, 26, a native of Eldoret, Kenya and a graduate of Iowa State University who is stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. "It's just a blessing how people believe in you to a level that you don't believe in yourself. Without them, I couldn't be here."
Bor was right there with the best steeplechase runners in the world that hot, humid morning in Brazil, winning a preliminary heat, then keeping pace with the leaders until the last three laps of the Olympic steeplechase final.
Brimin Kiprop Kipruto of Kenya won the race with an Olympic record time of 8:03.28. Evan Jager of Team USA took the silver with a season's best 8:04.28, followed by bronze medalist Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya in 8:08.47.
"I tried to hang in, but I don't think I'm ready for that kind of a pace," said Bor, who ran a personal-best time of 8 minutes 22.74 seconds -- two seconds faster than the preliminary heat he won two days before.
Bor realized with three laps remaining that he could not continue their pace.
"They were running an eight-minute pace and I've never run an 8:20 before, he said. "They just kept pushing."
Had the U.S. Army not pushed Bor onto the track for physical training, he said, his competitive running career would have ended several years ago.
"When I graduated from college, I think I was last in the NCAA Championships, so I thought that I was not going to run again," Bor explained.
When he joined the Army, he was required to run as part of his daily physical fitness regimen, which led to him running for fun and eventually running the Army Ten-Miler. Last year he was selected to represent the Army in the World Military Games in October.
"That changed my mindset to let me try to see if I could improve my personal best," he remembered. "I came into this year and ran 8:30, and that was my personal best. From there, I have continued to improve."
Bor began training full-time with the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program after the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials, barely a month before the Olympic Opening Ceremony.
"At the beginning of the year, I never thought I was going to be here, but to come here and finish in the top 10? That serves as an accomplishment," Bor said. "This is what I wanted. Hopefully, I will make the U.S. World Team next year."
He plans to compete again at the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C., to conclude this season. His focus then will be the 2017 Armed Forces Cross Country Championships, where he hopes to bring back a win for his fellow Soldiers.
"Without the World Class Athlete Program support and the Soldiers down range, I would not be here," Bor said.
WCAP Soldier-athletes are expected to project a positive image of the Army, set a standard of excellence for all Soldiers to strive for, and serve as an inspiration to the Nation, America's youth, and service members.
Bor said he runs for his fellow Soldiers. The night before the race, he was reflecting on his year. Before making the Olympic team, he had been scheduled to deploy.
"To go from preparing to deploy to competing in the Olympics," he said, "it just shows that you have to have those people who believe in you."