By Joe Battaglia
DOHA, Qatar (10-May) --- Anyone with a Google alert set for Nick Symmonds had to wake up on Wednesday morning, read the following sentence, and have some serious questions about what is motivating the five-time U.S champion in the 800m these days.
From gossip columnist Liz Smith, "Two-time Olympian Nick Symmonds, an American middle-distance runner, is being pursued by ABC to become its new hot 'Bachelor' on the still-popular reality show."
While world-record holder David Rudisha is fresh off opening his season with a 400m PR of 45.15 and is set to begin defense of his Diamond League crown in the 800m here tomorrow, can Symmonds possibly think that chasing women is the best thing for his career right now?
In an interview with Race Results Weekly, he said flatly that he doesn’t believe throwing his hat into "The Bachelor" ring will hurt.
"When my publicist, Hal Lifson, contacted me to let me know that the producers of 'The Bachelor' were possibly interested in me for the upcoming season, I thought a lot about it and had some mixed feelings," Symmonds told Race Results Weekly. "On the one hand it would pretty much completely strip my life of any privacy I have left, but on the other it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity and a chance to maybe meet my future wife.
"I then also thought how it might affect my track career. I know there will be people who would say negative things about my decision to appear on the show, but these are likely the same people who repeatedly told me I would never break 1:43 for 800m in my life. Very simply put, if I listened to these kinds of people, I would not be able to do my job well or live my life happily."
Lately, living happily has meant striving for success in both his professional and personal lives.
Last summer, in the midst of preparing for the U.S. Olympic Trials, Symmonds very publicly courted socialite Paris Hilton, first by writing to her father, hotel magnate Richard Hilton, to request permission to date his daughter, then by flying from Oregon to California to buy her a mint mojito in The Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
While news of this date made headlines globally and got play on television, it hardly seemed to distract Symmonds from his tasks at hand. He captured his fifth consecutive U.S. title at the Trials and ran a personal-best 1:42.95 in finishing fifth at the London Olympics.
It is that track record that Symmonds pointed to when asked if this latest foray into Hollywood would derail his track and field career.
"Well, I have always been the kind of guy who needs distractions," Symmonds said. "Two weeks before the Olympic Trials I flew down to L.A. simply to buy Paris Hilton a drink. It was the perfect way to take my mind off of the pressures of the Olympic Trials and out of that experience I made friends with a beautiful, talented woman. Though our busy schedules made a second date quite difficult to arrange, Paris and I still text occasionally.
"I am as passionate about running as I have ever been. I set personal bests in the 400m, 800m, and 1500m last year and know that I have not yet even found my peak in this sport."
Symmonds added that he is very much focused on the 2013 season.
After taking a month off following the Olympics, he returned to training and completed what he called "the most consistent base phase of any year of my life." His goals for the season are to win a sixth national title, regain the U.S. No. 1 ranking he lost to fellow Olympian Duane Solomon, who finished a place higher than him at the Olympics, and to contend for a medal at the World Championships in Moscow.
He will race just twice before the USA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, first running a 1500m at the USATF High Performance meet at Occidental on May 17 and then the 800m at the Diamond League Prefontaine Classic on June 1.
"Somehow, they managed to reassemble the London Final at this year's Pre Classic so it will be one hell of a test," Symmonds said.
Meanwhile, he has no regrets in terms of trying to garner as much publicity for himself and the sport as he possibly can.
"People may say that I do this stuff just for publicity. To those people I say, so what if I am?" Symmonds said. "The sport of track and field needs more publicity. If there is a way an athlete like myself, or Lolo Jones, or Sanya Richards-Ross or any other athlete can, in a positive way, increase exposure for our sport then isn't that a good thing?"