PIQUA — “If he makes it to the final race, he’ll medal.”
In the case of Piqua resident Mark Murphy, a father’s intuition proved right on the money.
Prior to Monday evening, Murphy’s son, 21-year-old Clayton Murphy, was only 800 meters away from capturing a medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The Darke County native not only won the coveted bronze, but achieved a personal best of 1:42.93 as he crossed the finish line.
Clayton Murphy overtook France’s Pierre-Ambroise Bosse on his way to a long-awaited podium finish for Team USA, earning the first medal in the 800 for the U.S. since Johnny Gray in 1992.
The younger Murphy, who turned professional with Nike in June, was among the elite 800-meter runners of these Olympic finals finishing behind David Rudisha of Kenya, who was awarded his second consecutive gold medal with a blistering time of 1:42.15, and Taoufik Makhloufi of Algeria who claimed the silver in 1:42.61.
Running before a worldwide audience didn’t seem to phase a calm Clayton Murphy, whose preliminary and semifinal races last week initially began with the runner “getting jostled” and bumped several times by nearby runners. The University of Akron senior maintained his composure and lengthened his stride with his signature “race savvy” kick as he kept his eyes on the prize and came from behind to find his place on the awards podium.
NBC analysts were quick to point out prior to Monday’s finals that Murphy, a Tri-Village High School graduate, “grew up on a pig farm in Ohio,” and needed a personal best as well as a top two finish to secure a spot in the final race. He accomplished both feats, clocking in 1:44.30 in the semifinals.
Joining Murphy in the medalist race, in addition to Rudisha and Makhloufi, were other racers from Poland, Kenya and France as well as USA teammate Boris Berian, who finished in eighth place.
Sharon Semanie is a journalist and longtime Piqua resident. She can be reached at [email protected] Belinda M. Paschal contributed to this story.