|1'500m US Team|
After Matthew Centrowitz finished second in Sunday's 1,500-meter final in the U.S. Olympic Trials at Hayward Field, he was asked about the knee injury he suffered this spring.
Centrowitz brushed it off as a "minor setback."
He wasn't telling the whole story.
After Centrowitz banged his left knee on a table in late March, the knee became so inflamed that he couldn't train.
Initially, Centrowitz and his coach, University of Oregon distance coach Andy Powell, thought the problem would subside with rest.
Finally, on April 10, doctors operated. Suddenly Centrowitz was faced with having to rehabilitate the knee while at the same time training to make the Olympic Team.
Centrowitz, a professional runner with the Nike Oregon Project but still an undergraduate at the University of Oregon, was training in Eugene while taking classes through the winter term.
After his surgery, Powell and Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar decided the best move would be for Centrowitz to join the Oregon Project's altitude camp in Park City, Utah.
"I became his Marine drill instructor," Salazar said.
With Centrowitz unable to do much running -- even at the end of May he was only running between 25 to 40 miles per week outside -- Salazar put him through a punishing cross-training regimen.
Salazar had Centrowitz on a stationary bike, in the swimming pool, on elliptical machines. He pushed him through an exhausting series of calisthenics.
"I really worked his butt off," Salazar said.
After grueling training sessions in the gym, Salazar would make Centrowitz churn three miles uphill to the condominium in which they were staying. The elevation was 7,000 feet at the base of the hill, and 8,000 feet at the condo.
Still, it wasn't clear that Centrowitz would be ready for the Olympic Trials.
"He didn't do any speed work until about May 15th," Salazar said. "I told him, 'You've got to start running fast. If you don't do it now, you're going to have no chance.'"
Salazar said that doctors assured him that Centrowitz wouldn't structurally damage his knee by running hard. There would, however, be pain.
"He just had to push through it," Salazar said.
During Salazar's "boot camp" Centrowitz was so worn out, he was sleeping about 14 hours a day.
At one point, Salazar said, Centrowitz told him he was exhausted.
Salazar remembers telling him: "Tired? You're tired? Matthew, there is no tired in distance running.
"After that, it became mind over matter, and he progressed incredibly."
Salazar wanted it understood that Powell is Centrowitz's coach. Once Centrowitz was able to run, Powell designed the workouts.
Still, Salazar took quiet satisfaction in watching Centrowitz battle his way onto the U.S. Olympic Team Sunday at Hayward Field.
Said Salazar: "He has tons of guts."