He is one of the ultimate American athletic success stories.
Meb Keflezighi and his family fled their native Eritrea in the late 1980s, refugees from a war for independence with Ethiopia. He grew up in San Diego, becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1998, the same year he graduated from UCLA. He is probably best known for his performance in the 2014 Boston Marathon, the year after the bombings at the famed footrace.
Keflezighi became the first American to win Boston in 31 years with a gutsy run. His fist pumps as he approached the finish line to the chants of “USA!” and the tears on his face embody the emotion of that day. Keflezighi understood his run, and his win, wasn’t for himself but for the country, now his country.
Sunday, at age 41, he will run in his final Olympics and face a formidable field.
He isn’t a favorite to medal, but as marathoners know anything can happen over 26.2 miles and you never count Meb out. What is guaranteed from Keflezighi is a mixture of heart and courage with gratitude and joy.
It’s a journey from refugee to American running inspiration with its final act on the international stage.