Important events like the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon bring out the best in athletes and this race was no exception. This Olympic Trials race on January 26 was also particularly special for two reasons. One, at the 16-mile water station, 1988 Olympic marathoner Cathy O’Brien displayed true sportsmanship when she went back to help Janis Klecker who had accidentally fallen on the wet pavement. Minnesota resident Klecker, 31, later passed O’Brien at 26 miles to win the Trials in 2:30:12, a personal record. O’Brien, 24, whose hamstrings tightened up, followed fourteen seconds later.
Two, Texas resident and veteran Francie Larrieu Smith made her fifth U.S. Olympic team – “beyond my dreams” – by placing third in 2:30:39 and earning the final ticket to Barcelona, Spain. At age 39, Larrieu Smith was, until 2004, the oldest U.S. Olympic Marathon team qualifier – male or female.
In Barcelona, Cathy O’Brien finished 10th in 2:39:42 to lead Team USA to its best U.S. women’s combined finish in the Olympic Marathon, 43 total placement: 10th, 12th – Francie Larrieu Smith (2:41:09) and 21st – Janis Klecker (2:47:17).