She's no longer "Kim Conley." She knows this. She might even want to change the name on her birth certificate, driver's license and credit cards. She's "Kim Conley Olympian", as if Olympian has become her last name. She's not David and Melanie's daughter anymore. She's Olympian. She's international, global in scope, the cache behind that word so powerful, it guarantees her an automatic friendly introduction and acceptance.
"Someone was always outside the entrance of the Olympic Village every day," said the 2004 Montgomery High graduate. "They would ask for your autograph. They were professional autograph seekers."
Those in the audience Saturday night at the Heart and Sole athletic footwear store in Santa Rosa weren't merely signature collectors.
When asked by a store employee how many in attendance were active runners, about half of the crowd of 40 raised their hands. The others? To see, to ask, to interact with an Olympic athlete, it's not like we have one of these strolling through Sonoma County every week.
Especially one with a President Obama story.
"What's your event?" Obama asked Conley after the London Games. USA's Olympic team was at the White House at the President's invitation.
"The 5,000 meters," Conley replied.
"So you can run all day then?"
"I try," Conley said.
And then First Lady Michelle Obama gave Conley a hug.
"Now that was cool," Conley said.
Make the USA Olympic team, you will shake hands with the President and hug his wife. Make the USA Olympic team and nothing is out of bounds.
"I was asked if I have an Olympic (rings) tattoo and if I ever met Michael Phelps," Conley told the audience. "The answer is no to both."
Make the USA Olympic team as a track athlete and the life of struggle and stress so common to the sport vanishes.
"I called myself a professional runner before the Olympics," Conley said, "but it's hard to call yourself a professional if you don't make any money."
Conley now is under contract with New Balance. The rewards of that association go beyond the monetary. At the shoe manufacturer's request, Conley has given a lot of speeches since the Olympics, especially in Michigan and Massachusetts.
"It began to bother me I hadn't delivered one in my hometown," Conley told the audience.
It is not an idle commitment for Conley. Track athletes form life-long bonds with teammates, the suffering of the training being the SuperGlue that binds and holds fast.
"Last night we had my annual Christmas tea party," Conley said.
That would be all the runners on Montgomery's 2000 state champion cross country team, the only Empire team to win a state cross country title. Track and field require humility, the discipline and sweat that extensive. And a Christmas tea party fits the mold. In Conley's case, especially, the next time she acts arrogant will be the first time she acts arrogant. She was never Sonoma County's golden child in track the way Sara Bei or Julia Stamps or Jenny Aldridge were. Conley was good, very good, and she was always nipping at the heels of greatness, only to be denied by bad luck or circumstance.
"I came down with food poisoning one year and someone clipped me the next year and knocked off my shoe," said Conley, describing the two NCAA regional track meets that would have put her in the nationals, where she would have felt more than capable of placing high.
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