Berian dares to dream big

Berian dares to dream big

Athletics

Berian dares to dream big

 In less than two years, Boris Berian has gone from being a broke college dropout working in McDonald’s to one of the brightest US middle-distance runners in a generation.

The 23-year-old will head to Rio with dreams of becoming the first American to win a medal in the 800 meters since Johnny Gray in 1992, just a few months before Berian was born. If recent history is anything to go by, few would bet against the maverick world indoor champion from muscling his way onto the medal podium.

Whether it’s taking on sporting goods behemoth Nike in a legal fight and winning, or resurrecting a running career that had once seemed in peril, Berian has made a habit of overcoming the odds.

In early 2014, his career appeared to have stalled. Falling grades saw him drop out of college in Colorado, and he ended up flipping burgers in a McDonald’s while sleeping on a friend’s couch.

It was not until the end of that year that his break arrived when he was approached by coach Carlos Handler.

Handler, the husband and trainer of 2013 world 800M bronze medalist Brenda Martinez, invited Berian to train at the Big Bear Track Club in the San Bernardino Mountains outside Los Angeles.

Within a few months, Berian had sliced more than three seconds off his personal best of 1 minute 48.93 seconds.

But it was at the New York Diamond League Meeting in June 2015 that Berian made the rest of the world take notice, when he bravely chased down 2012 Olympic champion David Rudisha before finishing a close second in a new personal best of 1:43.69.

Still somewhat star-struck, Berian asked to pose for a photograph with Rudisha after the race. The Kenyan refused and then reluctantly agreed after a further request from Handler.

Rudisha's snub had already rankled Berian, however, who told Handler to delete the photo before adding: "I'm never going to let that guy beat me again."

Berian's form had begun to attract attention from sponsors, and Nike signed him to a deal which expired at the end of 2015. It was Berian's decision to switch to New Balance in early 2016 that led to the legal dispute that threatened his season.

By this time, Berian had captured the World Indoor title in Portland in March, leading from start to finish in a superb display of front-running that has become his trademark.

Those championships in Eugene were the first since the end of his legal dispute with Nike. The sports brand had successfully obtained a temporary restraining order preventing Berian from racing in non-Nike gear before ending its legal action in June, with the court of public opinion firmly on the athlete's side.
Berian is now looking ahead to Rio — and a rematch with Rudisha.

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