Somali-born runners shine at the Tokyo Olympics | Voice of America
Somali-born Dutch runner Abdi Nageeye encouraged his friend to keep up the pace moments before the duo finished second and third in Sunday’s men’s marathon at the Tokyo Olympics.
“Stay with me, we are going to make history! Don’t get left behind,” Nageeye urged Bashir Abdi, a Belgian from Somalia.
Somalia sent two athletes to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, but it was the Somalis running for their adopted country that made the headlines.
Somali-Canadian Mohammed Ahmed won silver in the men’s 5,000-meter distance, Canada’s first distance medal in the race. But the event that caught the attention of the global public came in the dying moments of the 42 kilometer marathon, won by Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya with a time of 2:08:38.
The footage showed Nageeye encouraging his friend Abdi to cross the finish line with him. The two had trained together in France and Ethiopia for the Games.
Speaking to VOA’s Somali service by phone on Tuesday, Nageeye said he wanted to help Abdi, who was suffering from a muscle cramp. With 3 kilometers to go, Nageeye said he once again shouted at Abdi to keep pace.
“‘Bashir, stay with me. We are making history,'” Nageeye repeated in the interview.
Nageeye said his friend is keeping pace but is falling behind again. He said viewers saw only the last moments of the race, but said he cheered on Abdi three times at the end of the race.
Nageeye said he wanted to sprint for the last 800m, but stood by, waiting for Abdi, until the last 400m. Cameras captured Nageeye motioning for Abdi to follow. Nageeye was second, winning a silver medal with a time of 2:09:58. Abdi arrived next, at 2:10:00, winning bronze.
“I wasn’t doing it to be famous, but I was doing it for my friend and my brother,” Nageeye said.
“I risked my position,” he said. “Even Bashir could have passed me or passed the Kenyan” – Lawrence Cherono, who finished fourth – “could have taken advantage of it. But I had that feeling, I didn’t want to leave him behind.”
Helping his friend and competitor was instinctive, Nageeye said. “I knew something was wrong because he was also a little stronger than me in training, and he’s a good athlete. It’s amazing I did that. It was a natural reaction from me to him because of our brotherhood, our heritage. We are both Somalis. We are both friends. We train together.
The public response left him pleasantly surprised, Nageeye said.
“After a day it was crazy. The whole world is talking about it. I just came from the King of the Netherlands – he was talking about it,” Nageeye said of Willem-Alexander. “Everyone is talking about this moment and not about my medal. I am very happy about it.”