There really aren't too many eccentric personalities in sports. Sure, there are a few owners that didn't follow the trends, and every once in a while a superstar like Charles Barkley comes around who refuses to be a captive of his fame. But usually, most athletes are so focused on training, the money and whatever other egocentric persuit is in their periphery. So when someone like Gabe Jennings comes around, people like me take notice. Jennings, for those locked into the NFL, MLB, NBA, and NASCAR mindset, was an Olympian at age 21 who disappeared from competitive track-and-field after the 2000 Sydney Games and his graduation from Stanford. Amongst laser-focused athletes, Jennings was a treat. He was a real intellectual who ignored the superficial and materialistic pursuits of mainstream American culture, who once, in a post-race interview, described the sound of the drums he heard in his head as he dashed for the finish line in a race. In the six years that have passed since the 2000 Olympics, Jennings rode his bike from the U.S. to Brazil where he documented it all for Track & Field News, including his mugging, being a target of coconut-throwing monkeys, and then getting Hepatitis A at the end of his ride. Jennings also went to Kenya to run, but he pretty much dropped off the grid where one can assume that he was trying to "find himself." Most importantly, he really wasn't too consumed by making another trip back to the Olympics. "For two or three years, I didn't care," Jennings told Curtis Anderson of the Eugene, Ore. Register-Guard. "Call it complacency, but no matter how much your coach or your parents tell you that you can be the best, or that you have this incredible talent, if it doesn't come from your heart, it doesn't matter. And for the next few years, it didn't matter to me." But now Jennings is back and training thanks to a second place finish in the the 1,500 at the U.S. Championships in Indianapolis with a time of 3:39.42 last May. Thie only perosn to beat him was two-time Olympian Bernard Lagat. This weekend Jennings will race in Eugene -- the Mecca of U.S. track & field -- at the 1,500 meters at the Road to Eugene '08 track and field meet, next week. At the same time, Jennings has one eye trained on the 2008 Olympics and winning a medal for the U.S. But that's now. The Olympic Trials and 2008 games are still a long way off. Obviously, Jennings showed he can maintain his focus during his career at Stanford, but it is a fair question to ask if Jennings will still be interested in running when the big meets come around.
The Gift of Gabe is Back -- Eugene, Oregon The Register-Guard