Aug 16, 2016
Kenyan sprinter's biggest race: 12-hour dash from Florida to Rio de Janeiro in time for 200-meter heats
RIO DE JANEIRO — Kenyan sprinter Carvin Nkanata's biggest race this week was the 12-hour dash from Florida to the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro to make the starting blocks for the 200-meter heats.
He did OK in that first race. In the one on the track? Not so great. He came last.
He said it was still worth it.
If you're unsure how much the Olympics mean to some athletes, Nkanata's story might help make up your mind:
Initially ruled ineligible to compete for Kenya, Nkanata put in an appeal and then, without knowing the result of that appeal, took a chance.
He booked his own flights Monday afternoon, made the overnight journey from Tampa to Miami to Rio, and arrived at the Olympic Stadium straight from the airport the next morning just in time to line up. The timeline for Tuesday morning was: Arrived in Brazil at about 9:30. Got to the stadium about 11:30. Ran in the Olympics at about 12:30.
That run lasted 21.43 seconds — not a great time, but he hardly slept on the plane and didn't have time for a proper warmup at the track. Bottom line, Nkanata is down quite a few dollars and exhausted, all for less than 22 seconds of action at the Olympics.
"It's a dream. This opportunity don't come around every year. So, I just had to (do it)," Nkanata said soon after coming off the track. "I worked so hard to get here. I put in a lot of man hours, sweat, injuries to get here. So, I was like, I got to get here. I can't give up."
Nkanata has an American passport and Kenyan nationality and heritage. But Kenyan officials messed up his accreditation for the Olympics. He'd given up on getting to Rio, Nkanata said, until a lawyer in the United States heard about his story and offered to help him submit an appeal.
Nkanata said he didn't know the outcome until he landed in Brazil. The gamble paid off and he learned he was cleared to run after he landed, he said.
Now, he's going to get his luggage out a storage room at the stadium, check in to his room at the athletes village, and enjoy the Olympics.
Oh, there was one more drama, too, in his race to make his race. His flight out of Miami left late, and this was no time for a delay.
"I tried to sleep (on the plane) but I couldn't," he said. "I closed my eyes. I drank some water. I just prayed."
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