Last Year, This Indonesian Runner Couldn't Afford Shoes — Now He's a Gold Medalist
Lalu Muhammad Zohri is bringing home Indonesia’s first medal from the competition.
Just one year ago, Lalu Muhammad Zohri could barely afford a pair of running shoes. On Wednesday, the 18-year-old sprinted past the 100-meter finish line at the International International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) world under-20 championships and made history.
Zohri finished the race in 10.18 seconds and took home the gold medal, making him the first Indonesian athlete to medal at the competition — and people across the country are celebrating the historic victory.
Given the many hurdles he had to overcome, Zohri’s win is not just surprising; it’s momentous.
The teen is from a small village on the island of Lombok, just east of the popular tourist destination spot Bali. And while Lombok, too, boasts pristine waters and welcomes tourists, the island is part of one of Indonesia’s poorest provinces, West Nusa Tenggara.
Approximately 17% of West Nusa Tenggara’s population lived in poverty in 2014 and nearly half of children in the province suffered from stunting due to chronic undernutrition, according to data collected in 2011.
Growing up in Lombok, Zohri often trained barefoot, his sister told Kompas, a local media outlet.
“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. He has always been a quiet person and has never demanded anything,” she said. “He aspires to make his family proud and build a house.”
In a video shared by CNN Indonesia, Zohri’s family and neighbors are seen watching his win from their village via smartphone.
Though he is overjoyed by the victory, Zohri already has his eyes set on his next big race.
“I'm very happy with my PB [personal best] and national junior record. Now, I will prepare for the Asian Games next month,” he said after winning, according to IAAF. “I'm so proud — this was an amazing experience and this is great for my career.”
Indonesians, including President Joko Widodo, were elated by the victory and will be watching Zohri at next month’s Asian Games in Jakarta.
Berlomba bukan sebagai unggulan, Lalu Muhammad Zohri membuktikan: Indonesia bisa memberi kejutan. Ia JUARA DUNIA lari 100 meter di kejuaraan dunia atletik IAAF U-20 di Finlandia, kemarin.— Joko Widodo (@jokowi) July 12, 2018
Selamat untuk prestasi yang membanggakan! pic.twitter.com/9ELML2jwCO
Congratulation!! Lalu Zohri from INDONESIA has becơme a Champion in IAAF World U20 Championships— Cakrawala (@1708_45) July 13, 2018
A new Champion, mɑde a hιsтory ɑnd being an Iηѕρirαtion for this natiơn.
Proud to be Indonesian 🇮🇩
Tonight i'm crying for proud and really appreciate a New History of Indonesia by Lalu Muhammad Zohri😭. Wow Congratulations!!!!— Malikha (@malikhaarb) July 12, 2018
Bravo to Lombok, Indonesia-born sprinter Lalu Muhammad Zohri, who won the 100-meters race at the recent IAAF world championships in Tampere, beating out two American runners. And to think he almost missed the event, due to visa problems. Indonesia salutes you Lalu!— AsiaViews.net (@asiaviewsnet) July 13, 2018
Lalu Muhammad Zohri, I'm so proud of you. I don't know you but as your hommie here from Lombok, sending lots of love!! 👏🏻👍🏻— Sofia Citradewi (@sofiacitradewi) July 13, 2018