After a dream 2010, Chris Solinsky has had a nightmare 2011. Battling a lingering hamstring injury for the entire summer, a hard workout just days before his planned departure for Daegu ended up stinging the niggle into a strain. Thus, upon consulting with doctors and his coach, Solinsky decided that it was better to abandon his ambitious hopes for the World Championships — ideally, to set the table for a big Olympic year — in favor of ensuring his health for the Olympic push itself. Ultimately, Solinsky said that he felt that two weeks might have been enough time for the hamstring to recover and get him to the starting line — but that the mere two days between prelims and final simply wouldn’t be negotiable, given the pattern of recovery that had developed after hard efforts earlier in the season.
If there is any silver lining to be found in this disappointment, it could be that Solinsky’s spot will be filled by his own teammate, Andrew Bumbalough. Bumbalough made World Junior Championships teams in cross country and on the track, at 1500m, and broke out on the senior level with an “A”-standard 5000m performance in March. Solinsky said he will be making an elk-hunting excursion to take the edge off his frustration and disappointment, while Bumbalough packs for South Korea, where he will now get valuable championship experience. The Tennessee native and 2nd-year pro explained the timetable for discovering that he would be competing in Daegu and his goals therein.
Have you had a chance to learn Korean yet? What’s been the timeline of the last few days from Chris and Jerry deciding not to run, and you being officially added to the US team?
Learning Korean wasn’t really necessary. After seven weeks in Europe, and nearly three of them by myself, I completed the entire Rosetta Stone series solo. Time is money.
But the running timeline has been kind of crazy. I certainly wasn’t expecting to get called up. Chris is one of the toughest athletes I’ve ever been around. He would have done everything possible to get himself to the line. But as soon as I found out that there was even the slightest possibility that Chris’s hamstring might not allow him to run I kept my training runs going and added in a couple of workouts just to stay sharp. There isn’t a whole lot of fitness that can be gained or lost in this time period, it’s just about trying to keep the body accustomed to the hurt. It has been a particularly tough challenge in the heat and humidity of Tennessee – but that should serve me well in an equally hot environment in Daegu.
Coming out of USA’s as an alternate, was Jerry gearing your training and racing to keep you prepped for Worlds, just in case?
“Gearing me for worlds” really isn’t the best way to describe it. Because to be fair, we really didn’t know this was going to happen. Chris has dealt with this injury for a long time, almost the entire season. But he has been able to manage it and get by for several months. Obviously it got to the point where that was no longer possible and so he had to pull out. Had I known since June that I was going to Daegu, we probably would have approached the last few weeks differently. However, we have made the best of the information that we had at the time and have constructed a training plan accordingly. Sometimes as an athlete you have to be ready to roll with the punches – that’s what I’m trying to do right now!
What are your goals and game-plan for Worlds?
The goal is to race smart and relaxed in the prelim – stay in contact but use as little energy as possible to be ready for a big finish. The first step is making the final so that is certainly a goal of mine. But to achieve that goal I’ll need to follow through on some of the little steps like being relaxed early, finding myself in good position, and really kicking home. Additionally, this is my first Senior World Track competition so I’ll be looking to gain as much experience from this year, which I can implement for the Olympics next year.
What race from this year do you think will provide the most confidence as you take the line in South Korea?
I look back to Melbourne where I ran 13:16 as one of my best races of the year. I did a great job of what I just talked about – staying relaxed and striking at the right time. That should prove to be helpful when I begin to approach my prelim in Daegu.
You competed for the US in both Cross Country and Track at the World Junior Championships level. After making your first senior team in Cross Country earlier this year, how does it feel to check-off that achievement on the track, especially coming in your first full year as a pro?
My goal from when I joined the group (back in September), and sat down with Jerry to discuss what I wanted to get out of this year, was to make the World team. I had a good US Champs this year but wasn’t quite strong enough to finish out the race with the top three. Despite having raced well I was still disappointed having not achieved that goal. I really wanted to make the team.
Obviously, this is not the situation I dreamed about – having to replace a friend and a teammate. I am really disappointed for Chris because I was there through all of the hard training this year. I saw how hard he worked and how ridiculously fit he was. He was poised to do something great this year. I got the call letting me know the situation and immediately felt bad that he was being denied the chance to compete but also realized it was now my responsibility to get as ready as I could in just a couple of weeks!
Bumbalough will start the Men’s 5000m on September 1st.