Tokyo, Aug 3—It’s been quite an exciting 24 hours for Liberians. Earlier, Joseph Fahnbulleh made an easy entrance into the men’s 200 meters Olympic semifinals. He ran his first race in 20.46 seconds and landed among the top two in his heat. Now, he has taken Liberia one step further by securing a spot in the Olympic finals with a close 19.99 seconds run and new national record.
This was no easy feat. Despite his slow start out of the blocks, Fahnbulleh accelerated as he neared the finish line. He ran in the second heat, against the No. 1 ranked American sprinter Noah Lyles and No. 6 ranked Canadian Aaron Brown. Over half of the athletes in Fahnbulleh’s heat, including himself, were ranked among the top 20 in the world. Still Fahnbulleh is where he said he would be—competing for the top three spots.
“I knew I wasn’t gonna back down,” Fahnbulleh told Go Team Liberia. “I’ve been ready. I’ve been saying to myself ever since nationals, ever since the beginning of my high school career ‘I can run with the best of them. Just give me a chance.'”
Looking to the finals
The final race will be a battle between Canada, USA, Liberia, Trinidad & Tobago, and Jamaica. Just a tenth of a second separated Fahnbulleh from Lyles and Brown, which ushered them all into the top five. He is moving into the finals with a serious chance to medal and make history for Liberia. His team could not be prouder.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Liberia’s lead national track and field coach, Sayon Cooper said to Go Team Liberia. “We knew when we saw Joseph something special was going on. We’re proud of him. He made history. He’s such a young kid [and] he has a long career ahead of him. We’re so grateful to have him on Team Liberia and we’re blessed.”
The men’s 200 meters finals will take place at 9:55 pm local Japanese time on August 4. Those watching from Liberia can tune in at 12:55 pm GMT and people watching from the US can view the finals at 8:55 am EST. Listen to Fahnbulleh’s post-semifinals race interview below.