LONDON -- To put it nicely, no matter how hard you train, no matter how many years you put in, stuff happens at the Olympics.
Consider Morgan Uceny. The American is one the best runners in the world at her distance (1,500 meters). She was a medal favorite at last summer's world championships but was tripped by another runner with about 500 meters to go. She was able to get back up, but finished 10th.
Uceny was a medal contender again Friday night at the Olympics. With one lap to go, she was in position to make her move, but then was tripped from behind again. She fell hard to the track, landing on her right knee and hip. In obvious pain, she was unable to get back up this time. She kneeled on the track with her hands and head down as her competitors completed the race.
The extent of her injuries was not immediately known. Her leg was bleeding, but she did not stop to talk to reporters.
Sometimes stuff happens.
Consider the U.S. men's 4x400 relay team. The Americans have won this event in every Olympics held after the 1980 U.S. boycott ... until Friday. They finished second, just behind the Bahamas in an upset. The Bahamas winning was not the upset, though. The upset was the Americans were even running at all.
The U.S. lost 2008 gold medalist LaShawn Merritt last weekend when he pulled up with a strained hamstring in a heat for the individual 400-meter race. Then, Jeremy Wariner, the 2004 gold medalist, tore his hamstring. The U.S. still qualified for the final thanks to one of the most astounding performances of these Games: Manteo Mitchell running that qualifying race Thursday despite breaking his leg roughly halfway into it.
"Shortly after I went past the 200 mark, I don't know whether I landed awkwardly, but I felt it pop," he said Friday. "As I was running, I was thinking that I needed to stop. Then I saw Josh Mance [the next runner] motioning to me. I couldn't leave those guys hanging. I knew if I finished they would be able to do what they needed to get us a spot in the finals.
"Every step that I took was like Jell-O on my left leg. I don't know whether you can call it God or adrenaline or just the spirit of USA in my heart. I just didn't want to quit, and I just kept going."
Thanks to Mitchell, the U.S. qualified for the final. Then it was just a matter of finding someone else to run in his place. The Americans eventually chose 33-year-old Angelo Taylor, a two-time gold medalist in the 400 hurdles, to run the anchor leg.
"We were very short on men," Mitchell said. "We probably could have gotten a discus thrower out there."
Mitchell watched the race while leaning on his crutches under the stadium stands. Despite all the injuries, the U.S. had the lead in the final lap. Taylor wasn't able to hold the lead, though, and Bahamas anchor Ramon Miller chased him down after the final curve to win by .33 seconds.
"We definitely wanted to go out there and win gold for Manteo Mitchell, who is our hero and our brother," Taylor said. "He put himself on the line and ran with what I'm sure was a tremendous amount of pain to even get us here. If he hadn't been able to finish to race, we wouldn't be here."
"This is not how I expected to quote, unquote, go down in history, but it happened and I'll have to deal with it," said Mitchell, who faces four to six weeks of rehab. "But I'm blessed just to be here.
"We'll bounce back and heal up these injuries. We're coming back."
Sometimes stuff happens. All you can do is pick yourself up when it's possible, and try again in four years.