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Flanagan flashes a winning smile

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BEIJING -- I was standing in Tiananmen Square waiting for the start of the women's marathon when my cell phone rang.

My daughter Havana was checking in from San Francisco.

"Say hello to the Chinese people for me, Dad," she said.

Havana is 7. It's a sweet, delicious age. She doesn't understand really why I need to be gone from home so often but she wants the people in Beijing to know that she is thinking about them -- and me.

I try to keep a good distance between my emotions and the athletes I photograph but when U.S. runner Shalane Flanagan won the bronze medal in the 10,000, I couldn't stop myself from cheering inside. She ran a beautiful race. I have incredible respect for the effort all of the distance runners put forth -- they are the heart and soul of track. I don't think she knew for sure that she had won a medal until someone in the stands showed her three fingers, and she showed them back. I've never met her but I'm a fan, and I feel like I know her.

Her mom, Cheryl Treworgy, is my friend. Cheryl is a pretty good sports photographer and did some running herself. She held the world record in the marathon from 1971 to 1973. When Shalane was working her way through the pack, I thought about Cheryl in her seat on the other side of the stadium. When the race was over, Shalane found Cheryl and they shared something few will have a chance to share.

In the past I've laughed with Cheryl after Shalane has won a race, telling her that she should at least coach her daughter to break her stony appearance and look happy.

In Beijing, after the race, Shalane rolled around the track with the American flag blowing in the wind. She was beaming.

I sat down and wrote Cheryl an e-mail: "She smiled," I wrote.

It was easily the best moment of the Olympics for me.

Daughters. They're the best.