Call him today’s Yankee Doodle Dandy, and he was dazzling in the country turned around by Yankees. Leonel Manzano, sensational in all walks (runs?) of his storied track career, reached the summit, August 7, by claiming a silver medal in the 1500-meter race at the Summer Olympics
Even if we didn’t see Leonel win nine state championships in cross country and track at Marble Falls High School (2000-2004), or followed an All-American career at Texas, we’ve learned his style from the Olympic Trials a month ago and in preliminary races at the Games.
Forget about his 5’5" height, or being jostled by the big boys, or, for gosh sakes, don’t worry about his lagging behind. When the bell rings for the fourth and final lap, he’s ready to get his kicks.
A packed house at the R-Bar restaurant in Marble Falls—geez, a partisan crowd!—cheered like they paid a thousand pounds for a seat at the stadium. The yelling was rewarded, as Manzano burst from far back to overtake everyone (left) in the world but Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria. Leo ran a brilliant 3:34.71. He grabbed the silver lining and only missed gold by 71-hundredths of a second.
“That was his signature kick,” said Mike Jaquiz at the R-Bar.
Christian Fletcher of Marble called this a “great story, and we’re so proud to have him as a citizen of the area.”
“I knew him when he worked at Russo’s restaurant,” Sheila Garza screamed above the noisy crowd moments after the grand performance. “I always knew he’d make it to the Olympics.”
Long before that prescient forecast, Leonel’s life began in Mexico 28 years ago next month. Since then, besides time in small communities, he has raced in the great cities of the U.S. and the world and was in Beijing for the 2008 Olympics.
Things did not go so well there, but, like the way he ran Tuesday, leaving the immediate past behind him, he scorched that experience into a distant memory. Manzano galloped to the medal stand in London. His late burst of speed allowed him to grab glory on the world of sports’ greatest stage.