Morgan Uceny has picked herself up and dusted herself off. But the Indiana native returned to her hometown of Plymouth this weekend and is still unable to erase the memory of her fall and DNF in the 1,500-meter Olympic finals Aug. 10.
The former IHSAA champion, Cornell University All-American and United States champion was the top-ranked 1,500-meter runner in the world in 2011. She sat down Sunday and talked about the Olympics, the status of U.S. track and field, and where the 26-year-old goes from here.
News-Sentinel: What's it like coming home? Was it still a hero's welcome?
Uceny: It has been incredible. There was so much support for me leading up to The Olympics and while they were going on. I would have loved to bring a medal home. ... I felt like I let a lot of people down. But people have been great. I expected friends and family to be waiting for me, but there have been complete strangers coming up to me at the store or when I'm walking down the street. Distance runners just don't get that type of treatment normally. I know I don't get it (in San Diego) where I train.
News-Sentinel: You haven't competed since the Olympics. Are you injured?
Uceny: Kind of. There isn't one single injury that I can put a finger on. I didn't pull anything or tear anything. Everything is just out of balance. I tried to resume training and I couldn't complete workouts. My shoulder, hip, back ... everything from the neck down was off. As a middle-distance runner, you want everything perfect, and my body isn't anywhere near close to being able to compete. I went down pretty hard; it shocked my system.
News-Sentinel: How much of this is mental?
Uceny: Certainly the emotional side has been very tough to deal with. But physically I just wasn't able to get going again. So I just decided to take my break (two to four weeks).
News-Sentinel: Have you watched the video of the 1,500 finals? Do you know what happened?
Uceny: I watched a replay right afterwards but I haven't looked at it again. I didn't really look closely because it really doesn't matter. I can't change anything and it won't do any good to keep replaying it.
With about 350 meters remaining, Uceny was running in Lane 2, about in third or fourth, when a runner behind her clipped her foot. The result was Uceny's knee hitting her other leg.
News-Sentinel: You were tripped in similar fashion in the 1,500-meter finals at last year's World Championships. Is that the first thing that came to mind?
Uceny: I wasn't really thinking about (last year). But when I went down, it was just (devastation). I can't explain it; it was terrible.
News-Sentinel: There has been some criticism in the running community of you for not getting back up and at least finishing. What is your opinion?
Uceny: Last year (at the Worlds) I did get up and finish. But (at the Olympics) I was running for a medal. That's what I came for, and when I went down, I knew I wasn't going to medal. It didn't really matter to me (that I finish).
The winner, Asli Cakir Alptekin, was in the lead when Uceny went down. Alptekin and the other two medalists each ran final laps of 58 seconds.
News-Sentinel: Despite the trip, you were right where you wanted to be, correct?
Uceny: Yes, I was. When hit the bell lap, I thought, I'm going to medal. I won't say I could have won; maybe I would have. But I know I had it in me to medal.
News-Sentinel: So, what's next? Will you be competing in 2013? And are you thinking as far out as the 2016 Games?
Uceny: I will definitely be competing next year, and if I'm fortunate enough to make the U.S. team, I will compete at Worlds.
News-Sentinel: And, after that? Can you look far out to 2016 and Rio De Janeiro and say you will be competing?
Uceny: I plan to keep training and competing. If my body holds up and I'm still strong enough to keep training and competing, yes, I want to make another Olympic team.
News-Sentinel: What is your view on doping and its effect currently on the sport? Certainly there are still drug cheats out there, right?
Uceny: I've never even considered (doping) of any kind, and I don't really want to think about others trying it. I don't know how they can think the risk is worth the reward, but apparently they do.
News-Sentinel: But you must think about it when Alptekin just came off a doping suspension and (silver medalist) Gamze Bulut, also of Turkey, is under suspicion.
Uceny: I really don't understand it, but there is nothing I can do about it. So, I can't waste my time.
News-Sentinel: Tell us about the Olympic Village in London. There were reports of wild parties, extra curricular activities and athletes from other countries being sent home for misrepresenting their homeland.
Uceny: I think that was all exaggerated. My room looked out over the main (gathering place) and it was all very quiet. I think most people who partied went to (London). There were plenty of parties outside the village.
News-Sentinel: Your races were not until the middle of the second week and your final was near the end of the Games. Was it hard staying focused when so many other athletes around you were getting done early?
Uceny: That was hard because I was always seeing people really excited because they did well or crying because they were disappointed.
News-Sentinel: So, what do you want to do when you grow up? I mean, whenever you do hang up the track spikes, what would you like to do? You graduated from Cornell (majoring in communications with a minor in applied economics).
Uceny: My dream job would to be a photographer for National Geographic (laughing). I've been really working on (photography) and I enjoy it. I guess physical therapy just because I've learned so much about it being an athlete.