Wis.-native Olympic bronze medalist Molly Seidel won't run at US marathon trials because of knee injury

Molly Seidel
Posted at 11:41 AM, Feb 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-01 12:41:00-05

Reigning Olympic marathon bronze medalist and Wisconsin-native Molly Seidel won't run this weekend at the U.S. Olympic marathon trials because of a knee injury.

Seidel revealed Thursday on Instagram that she hurt her knee about a month ago and an MRI showed she had a fractured patella and partially torn patellar tendon. She tried to cross-train to get ready for Saturday's race in Orlando, Florida, but made the decision to drop out to avoid risking further injury. The top three finishers in the men's and women's races earn spots at this year's Paris Games if they've met the time qualification criteria.

"I knew that I could not race a marathon hard on it, in its current state, without really, really injuring myself," Seidel said in the video. "I'm really (expletive) bummed. There's no other word for it ... I've dreamed about making this team and defending my bronze medal at the Paris Olympics since the last Olympics."

Seidel was a surprise Olympic medalist at the Tokyo Games in 2021, running in just her third marathon. She hung with the lead pack and finished behind Kenyan marathoners Peres Jepchirchir and Brigid Kosgei on a sweltering day through the streets of Sapporo. The marathon was moved out of Tokyo to the northern city in an effort avoid the capital's summer heat.

Seidel keeps her bronze medal in a display cabinet near her kitchen. She can see it when she cooks. Friends can view it whenever they come over.

That piece of hardware serves as a proud reminder of her journey on that magical day — and her path back ever since. It's a path that's included another fight with an eating disorder and a recent diagnosis for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

"We spend our entire lives told to want this goal because it's the pinnacle of everything and you don't really question it," Seidel said of the Olympics in a recent interview with The Associated Press before her injury announcement. "It's like, 'I want to go to the Olympics because that's the thing to do. And when I get there, I'm going to be happy and my most complete self.' I got there and it happened and by the time I got home I realized, 'Oh shoot, I'm still the same really flawed person. I just have a medal now.' Honestly, it was so (confusing).

"But I'm in a place right now that I never thought that I was going to be able to get to."

Seidel predicted Olympic success for herself when she was 10 years old. As part of a class project, Seidel scribbled in black ink on the back of a decorated card: "I wish I will make it into the Olympics and win a gold medal."

She was ready for the marathon trials, too, before her knee injury. She no longer felt like the new kid at the starting line, either.

"I've put in the work. I've paid my dues," the 29-year-old Seidel said as she trained in Flagstaff, Arizona. "I've got a bronze medal in my kitchen — I know who I am.

"My story isn't necessarily very linear or very neat," added Seidel, a standout distance runner at Notre Dame who switched over to the marathon. "I always get really down on myself sometimes because my story doesn't necessarily fit this mold of what it's 'supposed to look like.' That maybe I'm doing it wrong. As I've gotten a little bit older, now I can appreciate that just because I'm different doesn't make it any worse or any better. It's my own story and my own wave and I'll ride it."

She's always been open about mental health and willing to talk to anyone who reaches out. She was diagnosed with ADHD a little bit ago following years of dealing with an eating disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression.

Seidel began a podcast that addressed topics such as mental health.

"I've really seen over these last two years," she said, "that things can really improve."

Among the contenders in the women's race Saturday are Emily Sisson, Keira D'Amato, Sara Hall, Betsy Saina and Aliphine Tuliamuk. On the men's side, Conner Mantz and Clayton Young are favorites in a field that includes veterans Galen Rupp, 37, and Abdi Abdirahman, 47.

"I'm going to be watching and cheering for all the men and women racing this weekend," Seidel said in her Instagram video.