Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Abdi Bile's Long Run from Somalian Shepherd, to College, to the Games Series: ATLANTA 1996

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Abdi Bile's Long Run from Somalian Shepherd, to College, to the Games Series: ATLANTA 1996

Article excerpt

When middle-distance runner Abdi Bile led the tiny Somalian delegation into the Olympics' opening ceremony, few of the 85,000 in attendance could have had any idea how far this man has traveled, both literally and figuratively, to arrive at the Centennial Games.

He didn't get introduced to track until he was 18 in 1982, but he has been running ever since in places far removed from his countrymen's limited life experiences. The world began to open up to Bile the next year when he arrived in Fairfax, Va., on the Fourth of July, to attend George Mason University on a track scholarship, the result of a recommendation. This was quite a transition for someone who had once tended flocks of goats, camels, and cattle.

Since then he has twice earned Track and Field News's No. 1 annual international ranking in the 1,500 meters in 1987 and 1989. He won the American major-college championship in 1985 and '87 and the world championship and global Grand Prix final in 1987.

There's only one catch. If they gave gold medals for Olympic frustration, Bile might be the champion. He's 3-for-3 at the Games: three trips, three major disappointments. In 1984, he was so eager to compete he ran with a fractured leg. He improved his personal best by five seconds in the semifinal. "Pow, I came out of nowhere to make the Olympic final. Unbelievable," he says. "I made it, but later was notified that I had been disqualified," supposedly for pushing another runner.

The 1988 Olympics figured to be his time. "I was hardly losing to anyone," he recalls. "No competition. No problem. This is mine." Only it wasn't. Another injury intervened to prevent his participation, and the same thing happened once again shortly before the '92 Games.

When the first round of the men's 1,500 opens here Monday, Bile will be an underdog, yet he still holds out hope. "You just do your best, and sometimes more than your best," he says of his medal quest at what will probably be his last Olympics. "Emotionally sometimes you don't know how you do it, it just happens."

When the Monitor caught up to Bile a month ago, he was just beginning a solitary, late-afternoon workout in LaGrange, Ga. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.