NYAC Backed Keflezighi While Some Sponsors Viewed Him As "Risky Investment"
U.S. runner Meb Keflezighi’s affiliation with the New York Athletic Club, which had its winged-foot logo "ironed onto his red and white jersey" when he won the Boston Marathon last Monday, "stemmed from late-career desperation for financial support after most had given up on him," according to Lindsay Crouse of the N.Y. TIMES. Keflezighi first visited the NYAC to "speak at its annual pasta dinner" before the '09 N.Y. Marathon. At the time, he was "rebounding from career setbacks." Where others "saw a risky investment," the NYAC "saw an opportunity." NYAC member Caroline Bierbaum LeFrak said, “He’s the total package: beyond his great personality, he has a willingness to give back to the NYAC. Club members who pay thousands in membership fees each year want to be around athletes that are friendly and charismatic. We thought the NYAC would be the perfect fit.” Crouse noted the recruitment process, including a formal interview, "extended for more than a year," ending in '11. Keflezighi’s younger brother and agent, Merhawi, called it “a simple agreement based on mutual understanding.” Crouse wrote by "formalizing a partnership with Keflezighi, the NYAC received both a front-runner and a charismatic ambassador." Keflezighi "appears at intimate events" such as a summer 10K on Shelter Island organized by members." After racing the N.Y. Marathon, he heads to the NYAC's tap room, where "finishers swift and slow alike are celebrated by members." In return, Keflezighi "receives a monthly training stipend that is renewed annually" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/25).