For the first time in its Olympic history, Liberia has made it to the grand final in the Men’s 200-meter run at the on-going Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Since its debut at the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, Liberia has finally seen one of its athletes, Joseph Fahnbulleh qualifying for the grand final, running 19.99 seconds in the fifth heat of the semi finals.
At the beginning of the men’s 200-meter semifinals on Tuesday night at Olympic Stadium, Fahnbulleh found himself vying for fourth place; then he hit the straightaway—three strides out of second place and an automatic berth in Wednesday’s final, Fahnbulleh lengthened his prodigious stride and pump even harder with his powerful upper body.
He overtook American Noah Lyles, who looked like a certain winner. He finished just behind Canada’s Aaron Brown (Canada). All three finished in 19.99 seconds, with Brown and Fahnbulleh guaranteeing they will race again for a medal.
“I’m on the big stage and making a name for myself,” Fahnbulleh said. “Pretty good. I knew I wasn’t going to back down. You know, I’ve been ready. I’ve been saying to myself, ever since nationals, ever since my high school career, I can run with the best. Give me a chance.”
Fahnbulleh was the National High School Coaches track and field athlete of the year as a senior at Hopkins. At the University of Florida this spring, he became the national outdoor champion in the 200-meters run.
He had never before traveled overseas and said his legs were weary, but he finished in a dead heat with two acclaimed sprinters. “And I’m only 19,” he pointed out.
“I showed you all and now I have a day to rest,” Fahnbulleh said. “I didn’t panic. If you watched nationals, I came up on the curve, oh, sixth. I don’t care. I’m confident in my finishing speed.
“I know I can do that against them, and they are pros and they are on a different level. That does not mean that I’m not. My main thing is that I’m blessed. I’m here, I’m happy. No matter the outcome, I’m so happy.”
Fahnbulleh raved about the support he has received from Liberia and Minnesota.
“It’s been a dream,” he said. “It’s been work. I’ve been telling them, I’m going to make the Olympics, and here I am. I’m chasing my dream.”
Racing for Liberia, Fahnbulleh has shown that he can compete with the best in the world, as his eye is on a gold medal in Tokyo, and on something even bigger down the road.
Liberians the world over have shown support for Fahnbulleh and the rest of the Liberian Olympic Team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. President George M. Weah, the Liberia Olympic President, Philipbert Browne, Monrovia City Mayor, Jefferson Koijee, Representative Thomas Fallah and other high-profiled and well-meaning Liberians have all been expressing gratitude and showing support to the Liberian team at the Olympics.