Before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed, distance runner Grant Fisher ’19 considered making an Olympic team “a long shot.”
But on June 18, with an additional year of preparation under his belt, Fisher stepped onto the Hayward Field Track for the men’s 10,000m Olympic trials final in Eugene, Ore., ready to secure his spot on his first Olympic team.
“This sport rewards consistency, so knowing that I had been pretty consistent leading up to the trials was a confidence booster,” Fisher said. “I felt like there wasn’t anyone on the field who could just run away from me as far as just pure fitness goes.”
Fisher began his race conservatively, running in the middle of the pack while focusing on the front to ensure that he didn’t miss a breakaway group. He explained the real race starts with maybe a mile or a lap left, “and that’s when I want to be at the front,” he added.
Heading into the final lap of the race, Fisher led a group of half a dozen athletes, including his Bowerman Track Club teammate, Woody Kincaid, who was also surging towards the lead. Kincaid overtook Fisher within the final stretch of the race, finishing 0.67 seconds ahead of Fisher.
Fisher called the race “an emotional high,” clocking 27:54.29 to qualify for his first Olympic Games. Pro Joe Klecker placed third, earning himself a spot with a 27:54.90 alongside Fisher and Kincaid.
After the race, Fisher recovered in Park City, Utah, where he lives and trains, but he returned to Eugene just one week later for the men’s 5,000m final. Fisher (13:27.01) outran his training partner Kincaid (13:27.13) by a margin of 0.12 seconds, placing second behind 2016 Olympic silver medalist Paul Chelimo (13:26.82). The trio — Fisher, Kincaid and Chelimo — will represent the U.S. at the Olympics in the event.
“We joke about our head-to-head matchups and who’s beaten the other more times,” Fisher said of his friendly rivalry with Kincaid, adding that he finds racing with his training partner advantageous. “Woody’s a very, very accomplished runner, so I know if I’m hanging with him in practice, I’m in a pretty good spot.”
At the trials, Fisher went head-to-head with many of his heroes, including Chelimo, Galen Rupp, Ben True and fellow Stanford alumnus Garrett Heath ’08 M.S. ’09 Ph.D. ’14. Heath placed seventh in the 1,500 meters at the 2010 World Indoor Championships; True was the sixth-place finisher at the 2015 IAAF World Championships 5,000 meters. Rupp also raced on the world stage, competing in the past three Olympics where he took home two medals for Team USA.
“There’s a whole list of people who have come before me and have done a lot of the things I hope to do someday, so it was cool to be rubbing shoulders with them, and I kind of feel like I’m at that level with them, which is a cool feeling,” Fisher said.
Fisher will compete in the Olympic 10,000m final on Friday, July 30 and the first round of the 5,000m on Tuesday, Aug. 3. If he qualifies for the finals, Fisher will race again on Aug. 6.
He says he’s most excited to compete with such impressive athletes.
“I’ve never raced on this stage before, and it will be really cool to see where I stack up against the world’s best runners.”