Manzano Ends a 48-Year American Medal Drought at the London Games

London Olympics 2012

The 2012 Olympic Games have proven to be a snap for Leo Manzano

The 27-year-old Mexican American came out of nowhere in the homestretch on the track at Olympic Stadium to claim the silver medal in the men’s 1,500-meter final at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Leo Manzano

Manzano’s medal-winning run on Tuesday night snapped a 48-year United States medal drought in the event. Legendary track star Jim Ryun was the last American to make the medal podium in the event, winning a silver medal at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.

Manzano finished in 3:34.79, placing him second behind Algeria’s Taoufik Makhloufi, who completed the race in 3:34.08. Morocco’s Abdelaati Iguider took home the bronze.

Leo Manzano

Manzano’s performance, on the heels of Galen Rupp’s silver in the 10,000 meters, indicates that U.S. could be in the midst of a distance running resurgence.

“You think about Rupp, you think about Matt Centrowitz [who placed fourth in Manzano’s race] and myself,” said the Mexican-born runner, who moved with his family to Texas when he was 4 years old. “We’ve really brought distance running around the corner. I definitely hope it’s a turning point.”

Leo Manzano

“Leo the Lion,” as he’s known in running circles, ran with the heart a lion in the last 200 meters of the race to earn his spot on the medal podium.

“I felt like I was 10th or 11th,” he said. “I knew I was in the back. I just kept praying, saying, ‘Heavenly Father, help me. Push me. Give me the strength to keep going.’ My kick has always been there. Ever since I was maybe 12 years old, I’ve had this major gift from God. I guess sometimes it’s just been kind of overlooked.”

Leo Manzano

It may be easy to overlook Manzano, who stands at 5-5, 125 pounds, but his memorable surge at the end of the race won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

He cried on the track when it was over, as he thought about the two countries he cherishes.

“The U.S. is my home, and I wouldn’t change it for anything,” he said. “But my roots are still in Mexico. I love both countries. They both have a piece of my heart.”