New boy Rankin eyes Olympics

A world class middle-distance runner based in the United States intends to run for Cayman to enhance his chances of getting to the London Olympics in 2012.

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Rankin raced at Caymans Duathlon. Photo: Eugene Bonthuys

John Rankin has made many changes since last year’s Olympic Trials, including a new coach, new job, and new training approach. Now, he has decided to add more change to that list – new country.

Starting next year, Rankin has decided to represent the Cayman Islands for international competitions. He competed in the Irish Jog earlier this year and came second behind Scott Brittain. He also ran a fast time in the run leg of the Cayman duathlon.

He said: ‘It’s something I’ve been considering for four-and-a-half years. As I contemplated over the decision I realized once I decided to make the change, there was no going back. It’s been a big consideration for a long time and now, running for them in the 2012 Olympics is the commitment I’m honoured to make.’

His parents are Caymanian and Rankin will have dual citizenship.

He has hit the Olympic qualifying standards several times in the past, but has never quite made it on a US team for a major international competition.

Rankin just returned from New York this week after finishing 13th at the Fifth Avenue Mile. He finished in 3 minutes 59.0 seconds in a race that saw 15 men break the four-minute barrier.

‘It wasn’t my best performance at Fifth Avenue. But it was nice to get under four minutes and compete well,’ Rankin said.

Rankin finished sixth at last year’s Olympic Trials in the 1500m. He was named an Olympic alternate, but not making the team was disappointing. It took him several months before making a decision on whether to try again in 2012.

‘It’s such a long journey to get to that point and I just fell short of making the team. It forced reflection upon me, it made me step back and reflect upon the journey and re-evaluate if I want to go for it again and make another team four years from now. At that level of sacrifice, I wasn’t too sure if I was going to do that for four more years.’

Rankin has been considered one of America’s best middle-distance runners since graduating from UCLA. He got his start at Monte Vista high school in Spring Valley where he ran 4:10.08 in the mile at the Arcadia Invitational his senior year. His career at UCLA included several Pac-10 championships and NCAA All-American honors.

After he graduated, Rankin signed a three-year contract with Nike which expired and was not renewed at the end of 2008. He has a small contract with Strands.com, a social media site for endurance athletes, which supports him with a monthly stipend and training gear. But in order to make ends meet, Rankin has been waiting tables at a local Denny’s.

‘It’s a great challenge for my career. I’m working almost full time but training harder than ever. It’s a totally new lifestyle that I’m not used to living,’ he said

For the last several years, Rankin has been coached by former Olympic 800m champion Joachim Cruz, who competed internationally for Brazil. Although happy with Cruz, the disappointment of the Olympic Trials led Rankin to decide it was time for a change. Rankin’s personal record in the 800m is 1:47.01 and 1500m is 3:35.26. In the mile it is 3:52.7.

‘I always felt that there was a sense of hesitancy on the part of coach Cruz to push me because of his history of injuries and my history of injuries too.’

In order to get faster, Rankin believed he needed to take more risks in his training.

‘I’m at the point where I am either going to be one of the best in the world or I am going to be competitive with the best, but I’m not going to beat them. I love coach Cruz, he’s almost like a father to me so it was a very tough decision.’

In June, Jon’s father became his coach. A move that went beyond just training strategies.

‘I wanted my father to be more involved and this will give my entire family a greater sense of connection in the next part of my journey towards 2012.’

Family was one of the reasons why Jon considered not continuing running at the elite level. His family lives in Florida, and only be able to see them a few times a year is difficult.

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