Story 18: A matter of pride
The minutes just before a race is about to begin are the longest, for an athlete. Everything he could possibly do, has been done. Now, it’s the call of destiny.
This was the most important race of Jerome’s life. He had spent 7 years, training for just this moment. Waking up each morning at 5 am, reporting for practice at 5.30 am. Warm-ups and stretching, followed by one mile in and outs . Walk, sprint, walk, sprint, walk. Back to the hostel for a protein-rich breakfast which never failed to gladden the heart.
The very first day, when Jerome saw 12 boiled eggs on his plate, tears pricked his eyes. Never had he seen such an abundance. Why, his entire family could have eaten this and still had leftovers!
“Eat up, my boy,” said Coach Nipon, as if he could read the young lad’s mind. “You need it.”
He had seen many promising boys, just like Jerome. Picked them up from villages where they played football in the mud. Or spotted them at the races held during the harvest festival. Yet, never had he seen a talent like Jerome. The boy moved with the speed of a gazelle and the fierceness of a cheetah. He was lithe and supple but what really stood out was the attitude.
A race, after all, is run with the body but won with the mind.
The whistle sounded for the sprinters to take their places. On the starting block. Jerome stretched his sinewy body one last time and strode forth with confidence. As he took his position, a bead of sweat glistened on his forehead. To his left, was the triple world record-holder – Angus Maxwell. To his right was Olympic legend Michael Mahala.
As expected, all 8 athletes in the 100 metres finals at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics were black. But some were ‘more equal’ than the others.
The American had been groomed from an early age, using the latest technology. His every stride recorded, analysed, strategised, optimised. To make sure he peaked at ‘just the right time’. The Jamaican had the benefit of training at the Usain Bolt academy, with the latest facilities and a role model who believed in the potential of each boy.
As for Jerome, he came from a country which rarely made its presence felt at the Olympics. The national sporting federation was mired in politics, more interested in making money off athletes’ kits than their performance. It was only when he won his first international race, that they sat up and took notice. Jerome became a hot Olympic prospect, which came with its own problems.
“Run, run like the wind!” were his father’s final words to Jerome, as he boarded the plane to Tokyo.
As the whistle blew, the weight of a country’s expectations slipped off his young shoulders. Jerome felt light, he felt free. The gun went off.
Maxwell has gotten a good enough start Mahala was a bit slow to begin he’s got some work to do Jerome coming in Maxwell in front Jerome stretching out now HE’S COMING AFTER HIM!! HE’S DONE IT MY GOD!!!! 9.63 seconds! A new Olympic record!!
Jerome was still running. He was running from his past. He was running for his future.
He was running for every poor village boy who did not have shoes.
As ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was played on the podium, Olympic gold medallist Jerome Siddi burst into tears. 1.3 billion Indians cried tears of joy with him.
The Prime Minister tweeted: “A nation salutes its son for bringing glory with an Olympic gold medal. Jerome Siddi’s ancestors came to India from Africa centuries ago and made India their home. This is the unity in diversity of the great civilisation called India.”
Jaya he, jaya he, jaya he…
Jaya jaya jaya jaya he
(More about this unique community : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siddi)