NANJING, China -- Myles Marshall’s parents devised a strategy for their son: Run your own race. He followed that plan to a "T" Sunday night and the result was a gold medal in the 800-meter final at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China.
While most 16-year-olds might not heed the advice of their parents, Marshall is confident his know what they’re talking about. After all, his father, John Marshall, competed in the 800 at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games and his mother, Debbie Grant, competed at four Olympic trials, missing a spot on the 1988 Olympic Team in the 800 by four-hundredths of one second.
“Talking to my mom and dad over the phone, we made my plan to go out in the first 150 meters, get out of trouble and have my own little lane to run in, then relax until 500,” said Marshall, whose mother made the trip to China while his father stayed home.
|Myles Marshall competes in the men's 800-meter final at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Center on Aug. 25, 2014 in Nanjing, China.
Marshall’s dominating lead slipped away near the halfway mark, but he wasn’t worried.
“Getting overtaken at the corner didn’t really matter much to me,” he said. “I knew I was going to make my move with 250 meters to go and that worked out pretty well.”
It worked out really well. Marshall’s time of 1:49.14 served as a healthy confidence booster after a rough summer, which included finishing 43rd at IAAF World Junior Championships in July.
“When I raced this summer, I sometimes got in trouble at the beginning of the race,” Marshall said. “I wasted a lot of energy trying to get out of it and I don’t have as much energy as I would like to have at the end. But tonight I did.”
Marshall’s medal marked Team USA’s second gold medal, and fourth overall, on the track in Nanjing, after Noah Lyles won the 200-meter Saturday.
“We’ve had a pretty good showing in my opinion,” Marshall said. “It’s outstanding.”
Nervous going into Nanjing because he “hadn’t had a fast race in a long time,” Marshall said that quickly went away and he put his experience from junior worlds to good use. There, he had learned how to adapt. He now knew what it was like to compete against other nations, live in a dorm and compete in an environment outside his comfort zone.
That experience brought Marshall his first international medal with hopes of many more to come. Similar to his parents, Marshall intends to dedicate his life to track, but plans to leave his own mark on the sport.
“I do not feel pressure because of who my parents are,” he said. “I feel that it’s more of a good thing that I have them there. Someone who’s been through it, someone I can go to for advice who I know is on my side.”
Marshall says he played many sports growing up and settled (by his own fruition) on track when he was 12. Four years later, Marshall has already outdone his father, who does not have an Olympic or Youth Olympic medal of any color.
“He’s going to say they didn’t have this event when he was younger,” Marshall said. “He’s going to say — well, he can’t say he ran faster than me when he was my age because I did! That feels pretty good. I’m one step above him.”
The next step for Marshall is returning to Kingwood (Texas) High School for his senior year and then committing to a college (among his final five are Georgetown and Penn State). From there, the sky’s the limit for Marshall, whose only concrete plan is to run as fast as he can.
“The goal is to do great things in track and field,” Marshall said. “That’s all I want to do.”
In other action, Chinne Okoronkwo finished second in the women’s triple jump B Final, placing seventh overall. Meanwhile, Emma Fitzgerald finished 14th overall in the women’s javelin throw after posting a mark of 43.43 meters in the B Final.
The track and field competition concludes Tuesday (Aug. 26) with the mixed international 8x100-meter team event.