How Abdi Abdirahman, the oldest American runner, overcome adversity to reach Tokyo 2020?
How Abdi Abdirahman stated in Tokyo by the end of July. Because of the soaring Covid rates in Japan, 11,000 athletes will be subjected to a series of tight measures that prohibit socialising and physical contact across all 42 Olympic venues.
Because actual spectators are not permitted, athletes have been advised to embrace manufactured crowd noise. Chanting, high fives, and hugs are prohibited, and masks must be worn unless sleeping, eating, training, or competing. Athletes from nations that have been severely afflicted by the Delta variety will be monitored more closely before arriving in Tokyo.
Athletes do not need to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Although Pfizer/BioNTech promised to donate its vaccine, it’s unknown how many athletes have received it. Only approximately 23% of Japan’s 126 million citizens have had full vaccinations, but officials are working to improve that percentage before the Games begin.
view of Sapporo Odori Park – venue for the Olympic Marathon and Race Walking events – is seen on November 7, 2019.
On the final day of the Games, August 8, the men’s Olympic marathon will be held. Athletes will run the 26.2-mile race in Sapporo, a hot and humid city approximately 500 miles north of Tokyo, near the tip of Japan, if all goes according to plan. It was chosen to hold the marathon over Tokyo due of its significantly lower temps.
The race will begin in Odori Park in Sapporo and take runners across the city on a three-loop track. Despite fears and complaints from local officials who do not believe they are equipped to offer Covid-related health facilities or staffing for athletes and their delegations, race walking events will be held there.
The inaugural Games were held in 776 BC and only contained races under 5 kilometres. The marathon was added considerably later, after a mythical 490 BC run from Marathon to Athens, Greece. According to legend, Pheidippides, a professional messenger, sprinted the 40-kilometer trip to convey a message: the Greek Army had vanquished the Persian Army.
On August 22, 1920, in Antwerp, Belgium, runners line up for the marathon at the Antwerp Summer Olympics.
The marathon was not included in the Olympics until 1896, more than two thousand years later, when Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the modern Games. Only nine men finished the race, despite the fact that there were over 20 men in the starting line. The winning time was 2:58:50, about an hour slower than the current world record for men. In 1921, the 26.2-mile distance was officially established.
Over 100 additional competitors are expected to be there when Abdirahman arrives at the starting line.
From cellphones to Olympic medals
The Tokyo 2020 medals were unveiled in July 2019, exactly one year after the planned opening ceremony. The medals have a pebble-like look and are 8.5 cm in diameter, and are made from copper and zinc found in donated cellphones and other gadgets. The 68,000-seat National Stadium in Tokyo was then inaugurated in December of that year. 157 billion yen ($1.4 billion) was spent on it.
He and the other five members of Team USA’s Olympic marathon team qualified for the Tokyo Games in February 2020. The men’s team includes Galen Rupp and Jacob Riley, while the women’s team includes Aliphine Tuliamuk, Molly Seidel, and Sally Kipyego.
The road to Tokyo’s Olympic village
Abdi Abdirahman was ranked 12th in the Olympic Trials, so he wasn’t quite a lock. However, he was able to outrun the front runners to finish third behind Riley and Rupp. “It was a difficult race. In a 2020 interview, Abdirahman said, “I was relieved when I reached the finish line.”
Abdi Abdirahman qualified for the US Olympic team for the sixth time with a time of 2:10:03. He was 43 at the time, making him not only the senior member of the US Olympic marathon team for 2020, but also the oldest American runner to ever qualify for an Olympic marathon. Abdirahman is the oldest American runner to make an Olympic team, at the age of 44.
“I don’t think of age as a barrier that says, ‘You’re old, you can’t do this.’ Age is nothing more than a number. Why not?” he asks, as long as you believe in yourself and put in the effort and attention.
Abdi Abdirahman has maintained a professional running career of just over two decades thanks to a strong desire to compete and do his best, an undeniable passion of running, and an unshakeable belief in his ability. He describes himself as someone who pushes boundaries, particularly when others tell him he can’t do something. However, critics have continued to use message boards and social media to argue that his performance and career are on the decline.
A mystery virus emerges
On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization received the first reports of cases of an unknown viral pneumonia in Wuhan, China. According to Wuhan Municipal Health, the instances occurred between December 12 and December 29, but the virus was unknown at the time. The virus is identified as a novel coronavirus by Chinese officials on January 7, and the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission announces the first death caused by the coronavirus four days later.
“To be honest, I wouldn’t have came to the [Olympic] Trials if I didn’t think I could compete with those guys,” he says. “I’m not going to squander my time.” But… I was well aware of my capabilities.”
Abdi Abdirahman isn’t the oldest Olympic marathon runner in history. Seteng Ayele of Israel was 46 when he competed in the 2008 Olympics, and Bohumil Honzatko of Czechoslovakia was 49 when he ran for the country in 1924.
Elite distance runners lose muscle fibres and slow down around the age of 40, according to the National Institutes of Health in the United States. The global pandemic and an ankle injury, more than age, presented Abdirahman with the most difficult challenges.
The NBA’s season was cancelled, Major League Baseball’s spring training was postponed, and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were subsequently postponed by a year. The ruling was accepted by Abdirahman.
He claims that there are more significant things in life than the Olympics. “The Games will continue if life returns to normal, which it did not.”
The postponement cost billions of dollars to Olympic organisers, sponsors, and broadcasters. Athletes were impacted as well, on a financial, emotional, and physical level. Most major marathons, including Boston, New York City, and Chicago, were cancelled during the next few months. Training times were extended and access to facilities and teammates was curtailed. Most professional runners lost out on substantial sources of money because there were no events or training camps on the horizon.
An Olympic flame out
The Olympic flame was lit for the first time on March 12 in Olympia, Greece. The audience was kept modest due to worries about coronavirus transmission. The relay, which was supposed to travel to all 47 prefectures of Japan in 121 days starting March 26, was halted the next day due to coronavirus fears.
To make ends meet, Abdirahman, who is located in Tucson, AZ, claimed he had to rely on money from his Nike sponsorship contract and his own savings.
He had to change his training schedules and habits as well. Abdi Abdirahman began by running fewer kilometres than usual, just enough to stay in shape. A training trip to Arizona was cancelled by members of his international training group, the Mudane Team.
He eventually reverted to the training programme he had learnt from Dave Murray, his coach and mentor of over 20 years. Murray told CNN, “I know Abdi inside and out.” “In terms of training, I know what’s best for him. I don’t think I need to coach him because we’ve been with him for so long. ‘Abdi, just do what we’ve been doing,’ I said. And he’s well aware of what I’m referring to.”
Murray’s training method is predicated on simplicity, consistency, and limiting Abdirahman’s weekly mileage to avoid injury. Abdirahman runs around 100 miles each week, which is rather low for a professional runner. He runs practically every day to achieve this goal, including long runs (20 miles or more) on weekends and track speed practise. Weight training is also included in the programme.
The start of two beautiful friendships
Abdi Abdirahman was born in Hargeisa, Somalia, and claims to have moved to the United States with his family when he was 16 years old to flee the Somali Civil War.
It wasn’t until 1995 that he began running. He had just started Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, at the age of 18. His desire to be social, not athletic, sparked his interest in track.
“A lot of my friends were in junior college and they were doing sports,” he recalls. “So I was always the last guy at the cafeteria when everybody goes to practice. And I just figured … maybe when they go to practice, I can go to practice, too … So I just wanted to fit in with the boys.”
Murray was the first person he met in 1997. Murray was an assistant coach at the University of Arizona, while Abdirahman was a running back for Pima. Murray chose to recruit Abdirahman after watching him sprint a few times.
“He wasn’t a tremendous runner in terms of scholarship stuff, but there was something about him that I liked,” Murray, now 79, says. Abdirahman’s 10,000m and 5,000m times were respectable but not spectacular. Murray claims he ran the two distances in about 31 minutes and 15 minutes, respectively.