The 2016 Summer Olympics are less than a month away. They begin August 5th in Rio de Janeiro.
Sports commentator Art Thiel and KPLU’s Kirsten Kendrick have the story of one local athlete who’s just earned the chance to shine on the world stage.
‘A Great Story’
Jeremy Taiwo finished second in the decathlon at the U.S. Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore., last Sunday.
“He’s a great story,” Thiel said. “He grew up in Bellevue. He went to Newport High School and then the University of Washington, where in 2011 he was the then-Pac-10 decathlon champion.
“His family came from Nigeria where his father was triple jumper for the Nigerian national team in the Olympics in 1984 and 1988. So, there are some good genes going on here.
Struggled With Injury
“He made it into the track world but he had so many injuries and so many travails to get to this point. At one point, his [right] elbow hurt so much he could not throw the javelin. So, he threw it left-handed.
“He finally found that that elbow had severe ligament damage and he had what in the baseball world is known as Tommy John surgery — elbow ligament replacement surgery.
“So, that set him back. But through all of this, he managed to keep pushing ahead, especially financially because there’s no money for amateur track except for occasional prize money — very difficult ordeal.
“He managed to get an invitation to the U.S. trials and he did an altogether remarkable job.”
More Struggle, Then Success
“He was competing in the first five events [of the decathlon] and finished second after the first day,” Thiel continued.
“But then started to slip in the second day — was third and then he was in jeopardy of not making the Olympics because only the top three finishers at the trials advance to the Rio Olympics.
“Jeremy then produced – on the 10th and final event – his personal record 1500-meter run that blew everybody away and allowed him to finish second behind the defending gold-medal champion from 2012, Ashton Eaton.
“Eaton is still probably the prohibitive favorite but Taiwo has done a tremendous thing in qualifying for the Olympics and then, perhaps, putting together the moment of his life in Rio.”