Andrew Wheating wasn’t into track and field in high school.
In fact, Wheating’s introduction into the field of running came much later than most. He participated in soccer, baseball and snowboarding while growing up, until a soccer coach convinced him to ditch the soccer field and dip his toes into the world of cross country.
That exploratory moment paid big dividends.
Wheating went on to become a five-time NCAA champion at Oregon and two-time Olympian through his illustrious running career. Right before completing his sophomore year in Eugene, Wheating finished second in the 800 meter at the U.S. Olympic Trials, earning a spot on the Team U.S.A. squad bound for Beijing, China.
On the Talkin’ Ducks podcast with Sasha Spencer, the 33-year-old explained what it was like to compete in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China when he was just 20 years old.
“Eye-opening, I feel doesn’t do it justice,” Wheating said. “It was just jaw-dropping, head-swiveling, it was wide eyed. Everywhere I went, this is before the iPhone really took off, so I’m pulling my little digital camera out trying to take photos and trying to remember as much as I can… everything is just so surreal.”
But that wouldn’t be the most surreal moment of his time in Beijing. One moment the 6-foot-5 runner will never forget is when he got to meet NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who helped team USA win the gold in 2008 and 2018.
“When I met him, he was very generous with his time,” Wheating recalls. “As all basketball players, everybody wants a piece, everyone wants a photo, and he was very generous to take the time. He took the time with everyone. But you could see it on his face, like as much as he enjoys it, he is here for one reason and that is the Kobe Bryant Mamba Mentality. I am here to win a gold medal like there is no other reason...
Wheating would make a second trip to the Olympics in 2012 in the 1500 meters. He holds 1:44.56 for the 800 meters, 3:30.90 for 1500 meters, and 3:51.74 for the mile—all of which came in 2010.
He retired from professional running at the age of 30 in a post titled “Dear Professional Running.” The retirement letter was reminiscent of Bryant’s own retirement letter which was titled “Dear Basketball,” in 2015.
To hear more from Wheating on why he chose to hang up his running shoes, and what he wants to be remembered for in his future, listen to the full Talkin’ Ducks podcast here.