Photo: From Undocumented Immigrant to Olympic Silver Medalist: Leo Manzano Wins 2nd in 1500m
Impressive. That is just one word to describe Leo Manzano’s Olympic performance in the men’s 1500 meter final Tuesday.
Though he brought home a silver medal for the U.S., he was not born an American. When the now 27-year-old was just four years old, he was brought to the U.S. illegally. However, at the age of 14, he became a legal citizen.
He attended the University of Texas on a track scholarship and became an 11-time NCAA All-American and a five-time NCAA champion. He graduated with degrees in Portuguese and Spanish with a minor in business.
Leading up to the race, Manzano’s coach said his runner was a strong finisher capable of turning things up in the final straightaway.
Tuesday’s performance a true Olympic victory. He may not have won gold, but anyone watching would certainly call him a winner. In the last 65 or so meters, Manzano began to pull out from the center of the pack. He passed multiple runners and in a full out sprint, flew past everyone except gold medal winner Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria.
This was Manzano’s second Olympics, and while he may run for the U.S. he celebrated with both the U.S. flag and the Mexican flag and tweeted in both the English and Spanish throughout his Olympic visit.
After his win, he tweeted:
Silver medal, still felt like I won! Representing two countries USA and Mexico!
Manzano finished at 3:34:79, making him the first U.S. athlete to medal in the 1500 meter since Jim Ryun’s silver-medal-winning running in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Interestingly, for the first time in 20 years, a Kenyan runner did not medal, as the bronze went to Morocco’s Abdalaati Iguider.