Former Spartan track and field star Paul Chelimo ’14 shined bright Saturday night, placing second in the men’s 5,000-meter race and bringing home a silver medal for Team USA.

Chelimo posted a personal-best time of 13:03.90, becoming the first U.S. medal winner in the men’s 5,000-meter race since 1964. Chelimo finished just 0.60 seconds behind Mo Farrah of Great Britain.

Paul Chelimo celebrates on the podium before receiving his silver medal.

Paul Chelimo celebrates on the podium before receiving his silver medal. (Photo courtesy of USA Today)

“It’s the best feeling ever,” Chelimo told the Associated Press. “It’s the best, best feeling ever.”

But the night wasn’t without drama of Olympic proportions. Initially, Chelimo was disqualified for a lane infringement. USA Track and Field appealed the ruling and, an hour later, the International Association of Athletics Federation reinstated Chelimo.

On campus, nearly 600 Spartans gathered in the Elliott University Center for a watch party. As UNCG’s first Olympian crossed the finish line, the Cone Ballroom erupted into cheers, high-fives and a lot of Spartan pride.

For UNCG students who were enjoying their first weekend back on campus, Chelimo’s performance was the perfect way to start the year.

“I thought it was awesome,” said UNCG senior softball player Emily Lopez in an interview with WXII-TV. “I’ve actually seen him race while he was here … I’m an athlete as well and this was very emotional for me.”

And it wasn’t just students on campus who were celebrating. Social media was abuzz with Spartans from across the state and beyond showing their support for Chelimo.

“Sport can unify a college campus and community,” said UNCG Director of Athletics Kim Record. “The emotional swing from medaling to being disqualified to standing on the podium representing not only the USA, but also UNCG – what an incredible feeling.”

Read more about Chelimo’s historic race here and follow the conversation on social media using the hashtag #ChelimoInRio.

Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography courtesy of USA Today
Storify compiled by Morgan Glover, University Communications