Indonesian sprinter who could barely afford shoes wins 100m gold
Indonesians are celebrating after an athlete from Lombok island who could barely afford running shoes last year beat off the favourites to win the world junior sprint crown.
In an unexpected victory, Lalu Muhammad Zohri, 18, was first across the line in the men’s 100m at the IAAF world under-20 championships at Tampere in Finland on Wednesday evening.
From lane eight, Zohri took gold in the world junior 100m title in 10.18sec, a personal best and national junior record, defeating Americans Anthony Schwartz and Eric Harrison, who both finished in 10.22sec.
His victory, the first time an Indonesian has won any medals at the championships, prompted elation across the country.
Congratulatory messages flooded in, with Zohri’s humble roots attracting attention.
He is from a small village on the eastern island of Lombok, where he lives in a small house made of wood and woven bamboo.
Even affording shoes has been difficult, with his older sister saying Zohri asked her for Rp400,000 (£21) to buy running trainers.
“He asked me for [money] to buy new shoes before going to Jakarta to continue competing abroad. I could only give him what I had. I am very proud and he never demanded,” his sister, Baiq Fazilah, told kompas.com.
Fazilah said her brother, the youngest of four, often trained barefoot.
The Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, said Zohri had made the country proud and ordered two cabinet ministers to arrange for his home to be renovated.
Both Zohri’s parents are dead but emotional scenes broadcast from his village showed relatives and neighbours crowded around a tablet to watch the race.
Amid loud cheers, one viewer bursts into tears, burying her face in her headscarf.
In a video posted on Twitter, Zohri thanked the president and his fellow Indonesians for their support and prayers.
Earlier this year, Zohri won gold in the 100m at the Asian junior athletics championships in Japan with a time of 10.27sec.
He is now preparing for the Asian Games, scheduled to open in Jakarta on 18 August.