Two nights ago, jet lagged, I watched a TV show on the Swiss team. I recognized Kariem Hussein on the TV set, with Mujinga Kumbundji, the 100m and 200m sprinter. The show was fantastic, but in Swiss preciseness, did not overplay the chances of these athletes to medal.
Mujinga told everyone how she was surprised to make the 100m final, where she took fourth in 11.30. In the 200m final, Mujinga took fifth and ran 22.83, a new Swiss NR! The crowd went nuts.
That was nothing like what the Swiss would experience, twenty minutes later, from Kariem Hussein.
Kariem Hussein comes across my TV, making history! photo by Larry Eder
The Swiss had not medaled in the 400 meter hurdles for men since 1958 at the European Championships.
Karien Hussein ran well in the heats, and continued to impress in the semi finals. I thought he could medal and how nice that would be for Switzerland.
There are times, life-changing times, when, it seems like all of the world is your oyster, and things are going perfectly. Embrace those moments, for, they are few and far between in a lifetime.
Karien Hussein had a pretty good start. He had told people that he would get a PB and the gold medal, and he picked the race to do it. The field was a mixture of young and old.
But, most importantly, with the terrible weather: wind, rain, rain, wind, you pick. In fact, to this writer, who has lived in Wisconsin, USA for past 18 years, it seemed like spring in Wisconsin, not summer in Switzerland!
As the rain came down, Karien Hussein got a strong start. So did Rasmus Magi of Estonia. Hussein came charging around the track, taking one hurdle after another, with precision and relaxed.
The 400 meter hurdle race is a sadist’s race. Take the flat 400 meters, a race that is cruel and humbling, and add barriers. Psychologically, as one gets past the sixth or seventh hurdle, the hurdles seem to get higher, one’s stride gets shorter and one’s mind begs for a reprieve.
Kariem Hussein picked the right day to fire on all cylinders. In front of 22,000 plus of his countrymen, as Hussein came down the final straight, in the lead, the Swiss crowd knew they were seeing something special!
Kariem Hussein was starting to slow. Adrenaline can get you about 300 meters, after that, it is training.
Hussein held it together, as Rasmus Magi came charging down the track, seeing that he had a shot, not just at getting Estonia it’s first Euro 400m hurdles medal, but at winning.
But, this was Kariem Hussein’s moment, and he ran into the arms of his countrymen and women, running a PB of 48.96, and winning the gold. This was the first medal in the 400 meter hurdles for Switzerland since the year I was born, 1958!
Kariem Hussein, will replay this moment for the rest of his life. Here is what he told the mixed zone:
” This is an awesome audience! I ran a fantastic time, under 49s, a new PB and got the gold – I am more than satisfied. I still do not get it. My start was good, I controlled my rhythm, I stayed relaxed, I was patient, I waited and then I attacked. It is incredible, I still am searching for the right words, I am speechless. You cannot plan such a thing in advance, you cannot think it in advance. At the moment, all this feels really strange to me. I am tremendously happy, but all my emotions went into the race. I wanted it sooo much. I still cannot grab it, I cannot realize it. Normally I am not that emotional but at the start when the audience supported me such much I had tears in my eyes. But now, strangely enough, I feel empty. I told you that I would get both – the gold medal and a new PB – and when I say something, I will also do it.”
A magical moment in Zurich.