A letter to nijel amos
Three hours and sixteen minutes; that is a hundred and ninety six minutes after the shock of your elimination in the Olympics heats, I find myself here at this keyboard. Like many I am hurt and disappointed. But whatever scale of agony we use, our collective exasperation and agony cannot be greater than yours.
Every country has a dark side and we are no exception. There are those who will constantly remind you what a failure you are. They will spit at you and on your name and your footsteps.
The ‘friends’ who shouted that there should be a statue of you will tear you down. We will publicly go on a “we knew it” and “told him so” public competition and the public dressing down may have already begun.
Those who profess knowledge will dispense with it freely, telling you how you ought to have run your race. Truth is, at that point in time, then, you could have done little. Perhaps you were not in prime condition or it was simply a bad day at the office. Either way, what is done is done.
So what happens to a dream deferred Nijel? What will happen now that your light has dimmed? Will you go out quietly in a whimper? Will you listen to the naysayers? I remember 2012. It was your year. World Junior Championship gold medallist and Olympic silver medallist. Those were joyous moments. And now you find yourself here, where there is no laughter and no thousand smiling faces to proclaim your greatness.
You and I are not friends and we might never be and chances are that you have no idea who I am but that is no issue. Like many, I have been shocked by your defeat, angry even. But I have seen your resilience on the track, that sudden burst of speed on the home straight that speaks of defiance. I choose to remember who you are and what you are. In this hard times, for you and for the country, where thousands carry you in their hearts, you must show us the best in you.
Forgetting, countryman, is so long and loneliness is so vast a house with many doors and windows. You could choose to lock yourself inside that door and wail and weep for eternity, forever being linked with a first round exit in a race in which you were a medal favourite.
Or you could use that hurt as a catalyst for success and your quest for greatness. Greatness is not the absence of defeat or flashes of pain; it is not devoid of temporary setbacks. It is not a comfortable journey. Friday was one of those setbacks.
You know us, your people. Sometimes we demand so much from you who have the gifts we the common men have not been blessed with. On other days, frankly, we can be outright mean.
But most of us I guarantee you, have said many a prayer for you. In small and far flung places, in little households and large alike, you are the people’s champion.
So champ, do not cry for too long, do not let yourself be defined by that loss or let it weigh you down. I have seen you die many times in a race and suddenly found the will to live again. Fear sells newspaper and we thrive on it. It is the rock upon which many build their lives, haunted by ill angels and it is a route obscure and lonely. But I ask you to not be afraid. You are a champion and champions are ruled by hope and not fear.