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Isaiah Jewett Hopes To Be Known Both For Sportsmanship And Success

By Al Daniel | May 04, 2022, 3:07 p.m. (ET)

Isaiah Jewett prepares to run in the first round of the men's 800-meter at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials on June 18, 2021 in Eugene, Ore.


You may have heard of the EGOT — the exclusive club of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award recipients. But what do you call a world-class champion athlete — especially an Olympic gold medalist — who adds one of those entertainment prizes — particularly an Academy Award — to their trophy case?

OGMOW, for Olympic gold medalist and Oscar winner?

The late Kobe Bryant, whose 2018 animated short “Dear Basketball” put an Oscar in company with his 2008 and 2012 Olympic triumphs plus five NBA championship rings, is a start for that potential guild.

Another Los Angeles and Team USA sports figure, Isaiah Jewett, intends to give it traction by garnering a gold medal for track and field and a gold statue for animation.

Of that dual dream, the middle-distance runner and anime enthusiast out of the University of Southern California says, “I just keep following it, regardless of how I feel.”

He already epitomized that attitude for all to see at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, where a gold medal stood within his catching distance, only to scamper off after a freak misfortune. Last August, Jewett was on pace to finish third in the 800-meter semifinal when a trailing Nijel Amos of Botswana collided with him. The two tangled up and dropped.

Fazed only briefly, Jewett helped his competitor up, and they carried on together to finish a distant seventh and eighth in the third eight-man semifinal heat.

Given the faultless nature of their shortcoming, both runners appealed their standing as the officials assembled the championship pool. Because Jewett technically, albeit unintentionally, impeded Amos from ahead, only the latter moved on.

But both men completed their semifinal sprint. That is what stuck with Jewett in the wake of the moment, and it still does eight months later going on nine.

“I was a little bit sad that I didn’t get to go on to the finals, but I just took the motion of wanting to keep forward,” he said recently. “Now I just want to do better than what I did there because I know I can if I put my mind to it.”

Of Amos, who later finished seventh in the final and with whom he has since shared two pleasant conversations, he said, “I look forward to racing him again.”

Isaiah Jewett competes in the men's 800-meter semifinal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 1, 2021 in Tokyo.


If anything nags at Jewett, it is the mystery. He has left plotlines incomplete before, and prompted his mother, Venus Jewett’s, signature lesson in the process.

The first time Jewett had several expectant eyes on him in an athletic setting, he was seeking his first goal in organized soccer. In late elementary school, he itched to cement his status as a two-way midfielder by booting a ball home.

One way or another, it never happened, although it very well could have one day. He assumed a prime position and absorbed his teammate’s pass, only to return the pass in a panic.

Afterwards, his mother wanted to know why he had “quit.”

“What do you mean I quit?” the puzzled young Jewett asked.

Herself a track and field coach, Venus explained in a way she knew best.

“You’ve always gotta finish the race,” Jewett remembers her saying, “because you never know what you’re gonna get out of it.”

Of the situation at hand, Venus’s message was, “You didn’t show up for yourself, so no one got to see who you are. Everybody wanted to pass to you because they saw that you wanted to finish that race and kick that goal.”

Fast-forward roughly 15 years, and Jewett was raring to show the world who he was as a middle-distance runner. No one got to see that in the end, but they did get an improvised impression of who he is as a person.

“I thought it was something internal I was gonna learn,” he said of his takeaway from his run-in with Amos and their shared response thereto.

Instead, he absorbed an aftermath marked by viewers commending his character. He was humbled as strangers talked about what they learned from him.

“I’ve always wanted to be some type of hero,” he said.

So Jewett has at least checked off one of his top intangible ambitions. Now it’s back to the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, site of the 2022 World Athletics Championships and where he won the 2021 NCAA 800-meter title to cap his USC career. And it’s back to building on the Tokyo ticket that marked his transition to international competition.

The Olympic Games Paris 2024 are 27 months away, therefore his next crack at a grand finish is marked for France.

As his start toward that end, Jewett said, “My goal for this year at least is to make the world team and get to the finals.”

That would be the first act in a story of unfinished business.

Al Daniel

Al Daniel is a freelance features writer and contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. Follow him on Twitter @WriterAlDaniel.

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