By Molly Phan
Former Stanford runner Grant Fisher ’19 made an impressive Olympic debut in Tokyo, placing in the top ten in both the 10,000- and 5,000-meter races.
On Friday, July 30, Fisher, a middle and long distance specialist during his time at Stanford, competed in the 10,000-meter race and placed fifth in the finals. Shortly after the race started, Fisher already found himself with the leading group of runners.
Finally, in the last mile, the pace accelerated and the lead pack of 12 international runners began to split up. Selemon Barega of Ethiopia dashed into first place with Kenyan Joshua Cheptegei and Uganda’s Jacob Kiplimo following behind him. Meanwhile, Fisher sprinted into fifth place while sticking with the leaders.
The race came down to the final lap, and Barega took gold in 27:43.22, Cheptegei — who holds the 10k world record from 2020 — took silver and Kiplimo took bronze. Fisher’s time was 27:46.39, making him the top American and the highest-placing runner who was not from a country in Africa. What made Fisher’s performance all the more impressive was that it was only his third official 10,000-meter race — he raced one 10k before the Olympic Trials, and his other two came at the Trials and the Games.
Then, on Aug. 3, Fisher stepped up to the starting line for his second event, the preliminary rounds of the 5,000-meter race. The prelims consisted of two heats, with Fisher competing in the second.
The first five to cross the finish line from each heat in the prelims earn an automatic spot in the 5,000-meter finals later in the week. Aside from the automatic qualifiers, the next five runners with the next-best times also qualify. Fisher’s entire heat ended up running faster than the first heat, making it crucial that he finish in the top 10 to snag either an automatic or time qualification. Fisher finished the race in eighth place with a time of 13:31.80, ensuring his spot in the finals on Friday.
Fisher took his place in the 5,000-meter final race on Friday morning. The pace of the race remained calm and consistent until the final few laps. Paul Chelimo, another U.S. runner, dashed into first at one point during the end of the race, but quickly fell back and finished in third. Mohammad Ahmed of Canada took second and Joshua Cheptegei, who also raced in the 10,000-meter finals alongside Fisher, placed first in 12:58.15. In the last 400 meters, Fisher was sprinting close behind the leading pack of runners but ultimately finished in ninth place with a time of 13:08.40.