The Jakarta Post
Barring no unforeseeable injuries, Lalu Muhammad Zohri will don Indonesia’s colors in the 100-meter race at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year, if not steal the thunder from a pool of the fastest men on the planet.
Winning a medal in Tokyo is perhaps second to impossible for Zohri, but his determination to do more as evident in the last few months is a valuable asset that he needs to join the league of world-class sprinters.
Zohri, who will turn 19 in July, clocked his personal best of 10.03 seconds in Osaka, Japan, on Sunday to secure the coveted Olympic ticket. He beat the Olympic qualifying time by two hundredths of a second in the 2019 Seiko Golden Grand Prix for the bronze medal. Zohri finished close behind world champion Justin Gutlin and Yoshihide Kiryu of Japan who won gold and silver respectively.
The International Amateur Athletic Federation has steadily raised the bar for sprinters wishing to compete in the Olympics, as athletes have the advantage of utilizing technology and better nutrition. The world 100m record achieved by Jamaica’s Usain Bolt in 2009 is 9.58 seconds, 0.45 seconds adrift Zohri’s best mark.
It took 41 years for the men’s 100m record to progress, when John Hines clocked the fully recorded electronic time of 9.98 seconds to win the 1968 Olympic gold medal. There is a yawning gap, too, between Zohri’s time and Bolt’s world record.
But Zohri has demonstrated his mettle for becoming the world’s best. He shaved 0.1 seconds off his own record within a month. He ran 10.13 seconds for the silver at the Asian Athletics Championship behind Japan’s Kiryu in Doha on April 22.
Zohri’s achievement in Doha shattered both the national and Southeast Asian record of 10.17 seconds held by Suryo Agung Prabowo for 10 years.
Given his achievements at a young age, Zohri fully deserves a shot not only at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but more exposure in international races, as well as continental events like the Asian Games.
The Indonesian Track and Field Association, which has played a key role in his success, must have devised a career plan for Zohri to help him realize his and the nation’s dreams.
For the sake of his future, Zohri does not need to bear a huge burden when making his Olympic debut in Tokyo. Indonesia has twice taken part in the Olympics men’s 100m race through the late Mohammad Yuhdi Wijaya Purnomo in Los Angeles, the United States, in 1984 and Mardi Lestari in Seoul in 1988. Both Purnomo and Mardi reached the semifinals, therefore Zohri’s realistic target should be at least the semifinals.
It does not matter if Zohri fails to win a medal in Tokyo as he is not supposed to be in his golden period next year. His showing in Tokyo, however, will provide him a platform to shine in the 2024 Olympics in Paris and beyond.