Almost 2.5 million people tuned into Day 12 of the Tokyo Olympics where 27 year-old West Australian Peter Bol competed in the 800m mens final.
At the 200m mark Bol had joined the front of the pack and by the 400m mark, he was leading the way.
He stayed ahead until the last 60m when he was overtaken, taking out 4th place.
He’ll leave Tokyo without a medal, but he will be taking home the hearts of Australians everywhere.
In his post-event press conference, Bol said he was grateful to Australia and to everyone he inspired.
“I’m thankful to everyone in Australia, we’re human at the end of the day. We inspired the whole nation. That’s the goal.”
Bol, who was born in Sudan, became the first Australian to qualify for the men’s 800m final since Ralph Doubell won gold in the 1968 Olympics 53 years ago.
His qualifying time was the fastest time ever by an Australian athlete at 1 minute 44.62 seconds.
John Aciek, president of the South Sudan Community Association of Western Australia (SSCWA), says it’s critical for young people to have a role model like Bol.
“A lot of young people have been yearning to see themselves in Australia, in Australian society, and now they can see themselves clearly. They see Peter Bol representing Australia, wearing green and gold with pride,” he says.
He says the most important thing Peter Bol achieved was inspiring others, particularly those with diverse backgrounds.
“Peter Bol has inspired so many young people in our community. He has become a figure that people can look up to. Not only to the Sudanese community but the whole of Australia, a lot of young people are saying ‘I can run like Peter’,” he says.
Fatima Omar, president of the United Sudanese Youth of WA, says Bol’s exploits provide a positive representation for the African-Australian community, specifically the Sudanese and South Sudanese communities, all over Australia.
“It makes people have a shift in perspective towards African-Australians. It’s empowering for young African people to see themselves within him,” she says.
Nidal Saeed, a member of the United Sudanese Youth of WA agrees, saying Bol’s achievements will impact their whole community.
“Peter Bol, whether he recognises it or not, is a symbol of Black excellence, he is a prime example of the majority of attributes which African-Australians have and live by and he is a fresh breathe of air for diversity in Australian sports.”