FORTY MINUTES from the finish line at the Tuscaloosa Olympic trials, Potts’s death gaze is trained on Kemper. The cycling pack has dwindled to three contenders: Potts, Kemper and Reed. As Potts enters the last of eight bike laps, Doane studies his form and nods approvingly.
Doane can’t stop pacing. Potts is riding even with Reed and Kemper, his heart rate still at a smooth 165. “If this thing boils down to Andy and Hunter running together, I think Andy can outrun him,” Doane says.
Today’s 10 competitors know one another’s abilities and strategies intimately. Almost all of them live in Colorado Springs, and they compete constantly. So when, with one mile of cycling to go, Reed makes a break for it, no one blinks. Doane watches Reed whiz by. Potts and Kemper follow 20 seconds later. “He’s made that move lots of times,” Doane says. “Andy can catch him on the run.”
Moments later, they ditch the bikes. Reed is still running 20 seconds ahead. Potts is nearly stepping on Kemper’s heels. “If Andy can stay with Hunter for five kilometers, he’ll break his spirit,” Doane murmurs. Potts maintains his position through the second of four laps. With three miles left to determine the next Olympian, Potts is in third place. The crowd goes crazy at the prospect of a tight three-way race.
Reed is too far ahead for Potts to see when Potts scrapes past Kemper. But as the two approach a fork in the track, a race volunteer directs Potts down the lane that leads to the finish line—a lap too early. Potts takes only a few strides in the wrong direction, but at a breakneck 4:55-mile pace, the effect is devastating. He has fallen seven seconds behind Kemper. Reed is 30 seconds ahead. Doane stares at his watch. He turns purple. “I don’t have a good feeling about this.” Lisa, unable to watch, sits in the grass 20 yards from the racecourse.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.