Seminole resident Ken Kastor, left, with Olympic marathon bronze medalist Deena Kastor and husband/therapist Andrew Kastor.
SEMINOLE – Like many other local residents, Ken Kastor watched the Olympics on television last week. While everyone enjoyed cheering on their favorites, he felt a special connection to one event, to one particular athlete.
He was watching when Deena Kastor finished third in the Olympic marathon, the first American to win a medal in the event since Joan Benoit’s gold in 1984. With less than one mile remaining in the 26.2-mile marathon, she overtook Ethiopian Elfenish Alemu, finishing in 2:27.19 behind Mizuki Noguchi of Japan and Catherine Ndereba of Kenya.
The bronze medalist is married to Kastor’s nephew, Andrew, and lives in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
“They met at Adams State College in Colorado,” Kastor said. “He was working on a degree in physical therapy and massage therapy. He’s also a runner.”
The couple met through common friends. Andrew is Deena’s massage therapist and personal trainer.
The heat and the hilly terrain of the course made for a grueling race. British runner Paula Radcliffe, expected to win gold, quit the race about 3 miles from the finish. Deena, whose specialty is the 10K, did not push herself for the first half of the race. Reaching the halfway point, she gauged her energy and began picking off competitors.
“She had a good strategy,” Kastor said.
Deena is a four-time U.S. 10K champion, and set an American record in July with a time of 31:09.65. She was the U.S. 2001 Marathon champion and set an American record at the 2003 Boston Marathon. She was the 2002 World cross-country silver medalist and five-time U.S. 8K cross-country champion, according to the American Olympics team Web site.
Deena finished second at the Olympic marathon trials April 3 in St. Louis, and first in the Olympic 10K trials July 16 in Sacramento.
“She also qualified to run in the Olympic 10K,” Kastor said. “But she couldn’t run in both. It would have been too much to expend all that energy in one race, then turn around and run another.”
Asked if she will take a break after winning an Olympic medal, Kastor shook his head.
“She’ll be running in the New York Marathon in November.”