Australian olympian Peter Bol stunned fans as he won the semi-final of the 800m track event in an Australian record yesterday.
Bol won the track event with a record time of 1:44.11, making him the first Australian in fifty-three years to make an 800m Olympic final since Ralph Doubell won gold in 1968.
The win comes just years after Bol was convinced by a teacher to take his potential as a runner seriously.
At just 4-years-old, Bol and his family fled war-torn Sudan to a refugee camp in Egypt where they lived for 4 years until they moved to Australia.
Speaking with the Sydney Morning Herald back in 2016, he said: “I don’t have much memories from back home in Sudan, there was a civil war at the time and we made a move to Egypt to come through to Australia.
“Egypt, I just remember always being with my family, it was still a bit difficult to be in, it was a bit tough over there to live. It wasn’t all good memories.”
However, when Bol and his family arrived in Australia in 2002, they stepped off the plane with a “feeling of excitement.”
“It was completely different, it was just nice, even the air was fresh and it was just a feeling – pretty much the same feeling if you just made it to the Olympics – a feeling of excitement.
“We came to Australia for the obvious reason – Australia is one of the best countries in the world… I have been around a few countries and Australia is the best country to be in so my family definitely made the right choice.”
After moving to Australia, Bol lived in Queensland first before moving to Perth and later to Melbourne. It was while he lived in Perth aged sixteen that Bol discovered his talent for running.
A teacher at his school, Helen Leahy, noticed his potential as a runner after watching him compete in a cross country event and persuaded him to take it seriously – though Bol only saw it as a way to improve his basketball abilities.
“Shortly after an athletics school carnival, one of my teachers, Helen Leahy approached me and convinced me to join an athletics club,” he told Athletics Australia.
Leahy promised to find him a club, a mentor, and a coach which Bol thought “was a pretty good deal” so he agreed and since then, his career and success have only grown.
Yesterday, Bol became the first Australian 800-meter finalist in more than half a century after he won the 800-meter semi-final event.
As per the Daily Mail, Bol spoke with Channel Seven after his win and said: “Job’s done today but still a lot to go. We can’t underestimate any of these runners. Any day, someone can come out.
“I went to Europe for three weeks and raced two races; they weren’t the best in terms of positions but they were the best for preparation. When I went to Gateshead and came third I said to [manager James Templeton and coach Justin Rinaldi] that I think we can win a medal.
“I didn’t want to get too excited, I had to get to the final first. But we’re here making history, 2 Australian records in a row and I look forward to the final.”
Bol will participate in the 800m men’s final on Wednesday.