Stanford grad Fedronic off and running, all the way to Rio


Justine Fedronic had the breakthrough she'd been waiting for in June during a track and field competition in Atlanta. She ran the 800 meters in 1:59.86 -- her first time under 2:00.

The two-minute barrier is an important milestone for female 800 runners, one that separates the elite from the near-elite. Fedronic entered a universe inhabited by a select group of runners.

Justine Fedronic
"The two-minute 800 is very symbolic," Fedronic said. "It's like the four-minute mile. So much significance is attached to it. But within 30 seconds after the race I was looking forward to 1:58."

Fedronic, the former Stanford University and Carlmont High standout, will get a chance to shoot for her new goal on the world's biggest stage. She will compete for France next month at the Olympic Games in Rio.

The two-minute mark had been an obsession of Fedronic's since her emergence on the sport's radar in 2007 when she ran 2:08.08 as a precocious sophomore at Carlmont.

That turned out to be the fastest time of her prep career as injuries limited her from running faster as a junior and senior.

Injuries -- stress reactions, stress fractures, a broken toe, an achilles strain, a broken rib -- continued to plague her throughout her college years. She also had to adjust to different coaches on a yearly basis.

She ran 2:06 as a sophomore and brought her personal-best time down to 2:03 as a junior. She flourished during what she termed "a magical senior year," under the conservative training philosophy instituted by Chris Miltenberg and ran 2:00 for the first time.

"I found that if I persevered through injuries it contributed to my mental toughness," she said.

Fedronic competed professionally after graduating from Stanford in 2013 and ran 2:00 on several more occasions before breaking through in Atlanta.

"It was a relief finally doing it," Fedronic said. "Now my mind is clearer and more focused. I have a good mindset going into Rio."

Fedronic was born in Heidelberg, Germany to a French-Caribbean father and Hungarian mother. Her father, Fernand Fedronic, is a former French national figure skating champion.

The family moved to Paris before settling in the Bay Area, initially in Redwood Shores, when Fedronic was in elementary school.

After graduating from Stanford, Fedronic was not eligible to compete at the U.S. championships because she did not possess U.S. citizenship at that time. Born with French citizenship, she began competing for France internationally.

She and Renelle Lamote are France's two entrants in the Olympic women's 800. Lamote has a best of 1:58.02.

"She is a good friend," Fedronic said. "We motivate each other to run faster."

Fedronic will depart for Rio Aug. 7. The women's 800 preliminaries begin Aug. 17.

"The Olympics is something I've always aspired toward," Fedronic said. "I haven't really comprehended that I actually get to go."

Getting under 2:00 again by a slim margin will not do much for Fedronic at the Olympics. But she thinks she has more inside her.

"I think I can run 1:58 and be in the final eight," she said. "And if I can make the final then anything can happen."

But after the recent terrorist attack in Nice on Bastille Day and the publicity regarding possible jihadist attacks on the French Olympic Team in Brazil, Olympic athletes have more on their minds than mere competition.

"We have become a closer-knit team because of it," Fedronic said. "It's obviously a real scary time. It makes us want to fight for our country harder."

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