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Rio 2016 Olympic Calympian: David Torrence, Men's track and field, Peru

The first time Calympian recently switched nationality from US to Peru.

Sydney Track Classic
Cal alum David Torrence is representing Peru in the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images

David Torrence

Sport: Men's Track and Field (5000m Run)

Country: Peru

Twitter: @David_Torrence

Birthday: November 26th, 1985 (age 30)

Hometown: Tarzana, California (Born in Okinawa, Japan)

Cal affiliation: California Golden Bears alum (Ethnic Studies ‘08)

Years at Cal: 2004 - 2008

Olympic appearances: 2016 Rio is David’s 1st Olympic games

Cal Achievements:

As a distance runner, David Torrence has competed in 3 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field National Championships (Indoor in 2007, Outdoor in 2007 and 2008) as well as making the NCAA Cross Country National Championships in 2004.

He set a Cal freshman record in 1500m (3:43.62) and has a Cal top 10 time in that event (3:40.80 from 2007) as well as the mile (then school record 3:58.62 from 2007) and distance medley relay (also from 2007). The distance medley relay 2nd place finish from the NCAA Indoor Championships gives Torrence his lone All-American honor.

International Achievements:

David Torrence represented the United States through the 2015 Pan American Games, but has switched to Peru (where her mother was born). He was approached by the president of the Peruvian Olympic Committee after the Silver in the 5000m. He talked about the switch in an interview,

Why run for Peru as opposed to trying to make the U.S. team? Because you competed for the U.S. last summer.

Yeah. I competed for the U.S. a few times. And I had some soul-searching for sure. The question finally came up, like, “Okay this opportunity is available to you, what do you think?” I had to really sit down and think to myself, ‘Why do I do what I do?’ And obviously a big part of it is to see my own personal potential and how fast I can run and actually compete. But another big part of it is inspiring other people and athletes, non-athletes and kids. I kind of realized that whether or not I make the U.S. team, the American public as a whole is going to have heroes to look up to. The U.S. can send a full team in the 1500, a full team in the 5k, a full team in every sport across the Olympic Games, right? It’s expected of Americans to be there

Whereas in Peru, they only have a handful of athletes. I think there’s 12 track athletes now, maybe under 20 in total across all sports (25 according to this article). So me running for Peru and being someone who can make a final in events that Peruvians typically have not been good at, I really hope to have a much greater impact on that population, on those people, on those kids and I can hopefully change the running culture out there a little bit and also kind of introduce the idea of professional track because it’s really not well-known, the sport. Yeah, they have good marathoners, good 10k runners but mid-distance and opportunities for people that are over 25 is very foreign for them. I just feel like I’m much more impactful as Peruvian athlete than as an American athlete, basically.

I know a lot of people are going to say “Oh he’s going the easy route and that’s why he wants to go for Peru.” And yeah, I’ll acknowledge that getting to the Olympics now is a much easier task. But if anything, that (challenge) made me want to run for the U.S. even more. That was actually the main thing preventing me from really committing for a while was because I hadn’t done it for the U.S. and as someone that’s highly, highly competitive with myself and with others, I wanted to do it the hard way.

The biggest win in Torrence’s career is the 2015 national title at the United States 5k road championship. He also has the previously mentioned Silver from the 2015 Pan Am games,

David Torrence had a great 2014, from his wiki page:

Torrence had a record setting indoor season in 2014, setting the American Record for the indoor 1000m, the World Record in the indoor 4x800 and also running under the previous American Record in the 2000m, although Bernard Lagat was able to run even faster that same race and take the record. Torrence split a 3:36 1500 meters in the 4x1500 meters at the IAAF World Relays on May 25, 2014 to help United States finish 2nd only to Kenya. At the 2014 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Torrence finished seventeenth in a tactical 1500 meters with a time of 3:45.35.[15] After previously running for Nike, on November 25, 2014 it was announced that he had signed with Hoka One One.[16] At the 2015 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Torrence finished fifth in a tactical 5000 meters with a time of 13:52.4.[17] A week later, at the Portland Summer Twilight, Torrence took the 800m win over Chad Noelle of Oklahoma State with a time of 1:48.04 (Noelle went 1:48.06).

More on David and his Rio outlook:

Yes, David Torrence is a Calympian thanks to the switch of nationality. However, his track record with USA was fairly strong that he might have made the US Olympic team at some point as well.

More from the same interview as before:

Did you ever consider backing out and deciding to do the Trials for the U.S. this year? There aren’t many men with the Olympic standard in the 1500 in the United States right now.

Yeah, I mean right now I have the fastest time in the U.S. in the 15 (3:36.06 at Swarthmore on May 16). And that obviously has been a little bit on my mind knowing that, wow, yeah, the time that I’m switching may have been shaping up to be the time that I had the best shot. But all that being said, like I said before, whether or not I make that team this year for the U.S., I would just have so much more impact running for Peru and that’s really why I stuck with that decision. And I feel like it’s the best choice for me and the people who helped get me to this point.

A Mercury news article mentions how Torrence was raised by his mother and her Peruvian family after his father passed away when David was 6 years old. He has always felt a pull from that side of his heritage.

Perhaps inspired by his time in Berkeley and the free speech tradition there, David Torrence was fairly outspoken recently (during the US Olympic Trials) about the one positive doping test of a Kenyan-American runner - saying that “we know IAAF has covered up positive tests in past”, causing some controversy.

Torrence also also served a whistleblower in a doping probe when he sensed something was off with an elite training group. He wisely declined the “Vitamin shots”.

Lastly, here is a video from when Torrence was training for the 2012 London Olympics. Obviously, it took a little bit longer for the Cal alum, Ethnic Studies major, to become an Olympian.

Well, I hope Torrence is able to inspire a bunch of Peruvian kids with his performance in Rio.

The 1st time Calympian will run on Wednesday, August 17th at 5:30 AM. Should he be able to advance, the final will be on Saturday, August 20th at 4:10 PM.

Good luck to David and GO BEARS!