The Bird’s Nest, August 20, 2015, by Larry Eder
I asked Elliott Denman to provide us a daily story on something that most of us would not take the time nor the inclination to view or notice. Today, Elliott found a young sprinter from Tonga with Olympic aspirations. We wish him well.
By ELLIOTT DENMAN
BEIJING – LaShondra David Mosa’ Ati’s idea of a hero isn’t a Michael Jordan, a Michael Phelps or even a Michael Johnson.
Gold medalists all, they pale in his book to the silver won by Paea Wolfgram at the 1996
And why, just why?
Because super heavyweight boxer Wolfgram’s medal won at Atlanta represents the only one
ever won by an athlete representing Mosa’ Ati’s homeland of the Kingdom of Tonga. And the only Olympic medal ever won by an athlete – who didn’t happen to be an Australian, who didn’t happen to be a New Zealander – representing the huge swath of the South Pacific now officially termed as Oceania.
So that’s why.
His eyes light up at the very thought of being a celebrated Olympian. Some day, somehow. It is his dream of all dreams, his vision of all visions. He has no wish to pummel foes, as Wolfgram did on his way to the podium back in 1996. He’s too kind a soul for that kind of sport. He’d simply like to run his way to the top.
Thanks to the International Association of Athletics Federation, Mosa’ Ati’s dream is already out of the starting blocks. The rest will now be up to him. His legs will have to fly.
In its infinite wisdom – and the wish to give every last one of its 214 member-nations something to
write home about – the IAAF continues to stage a “preliminary round” of the men’s’ and women’s 100-meter dashes at its biennial World Outdoor Championships, as well as the Olympic Games.
The concept has two-pronged merit.
One, it spares a Usain Bolt from the tedium of a meaningless morning trial heat,
Two, it presents a world of new opportunity for an athlete like LaShondra David Mosa’Ati.
Twenty-seven sprinters were signed up to run the prelim of the men’s 100 Saturday morning at
Bird’s Nest Stadium. They represented nations as disparate as – check your Rand-McNallys,
everybody – Mauritania, Macao, Maldives, Sao Tome and Principe, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru, Togo, Belize and Guinea Bissau.
Twenty-six of the 27 registered dashmen actually ran. Berenger Aymard Bosse of Central African Republic actually did not. He false started out of the Worlds.
The quickest six of the 27 advanced into the evening session’s officially-declared first round, there to
match talents with the Usain Bolts and Justin Gatlins of the world.
Fastest prelim sprinter was Barakat Mubarak Al-Harthi of Oman, checking in at 10.31. Next in line were Ratu Banuye Tabakaucoro of Fiji at 10.50 and Jeffrey Vanan of Surinam at 10.55.
Sixth and final qualifier was Rodman Teltull at 10.71. Bolt might be able to run a 10.71 going
backward. All things are comparative. Teltull’s 10.71 was a national record for Palau.
Twenty-sixth quickest of the 26 who ran was Tashi Dendup. There was joy in his 12.15, too. He set a national record for Bhutan.
Almost precisely in the middle of all this was LaShondra David Mosa’Ati.
His 11.08 was a seasonal best – despite a semi-slip at the start – but not a Tonga all-time best. The national record – don’t you remember? – of 10.56 was set by Toluta’u Koula at Townsville, Australia back in 1996.
So besting the Koula clocking and at least matching the Wolfgram medal feat continue high-high-up on his must-do list.
While the Usain Bolt story continues to capture universal attention, just one interviewer
showed interest in the LaShondra David Mosa’ Ati story.
Among the major revelations:
He’ s just 19 years old – as of May 15th – and thus the youngest athlete in these entire World
Championships. He’s a student at Tonga High School – and a member of its Lions track team. And he’s already torn between the worlds of pursuing higher education and of the world-class racing experience he’ll need to lower all his PRs.
He doesn’t think it unfair that Bolt & Company are spared the both of running this preliminary round, of being granted morning absences.
“No, I really don’t think Usain Bolt is scared of running against me,” he tells you with
a widening smile.
“There is just one track in all of Tonga, and it’s in pretty bad shape,” he adds, restoring focus to his homeland.
” And so it is very hard to get in the practice I need.”
“But I am determined to get faster and run in other big races.”
The Kingdom of Tonga, which includes 177 islands, 36 of them inhabited, is located about two thirds of the way between Hawaii and New Zealand. There are about 100,000 Tongans and they are proud subjects of King Tupou VI.
Once upon a time, Tonga was known as the Friendly Islands.
Warmly greeted there on his arrival in 1773, Captain James Cook gave it that designation for,
apparently, a number of reasons.
First, as legend has it, he was immediately invited to the festival of the yearly donation of the first fruits to then-chief Tu’i Tonga.
Secondly, the chiefs (and their chefs) soon abandoned their original plan to kill (or cook?)
Cook because they failed to agree on a process (or their complete menu?)
Not until his third voyage to the South Pacific did Captain Cook – killed by native Hawaiians in
1779 – meet his maker.
Nothing really sinister has happened in Tonga since Captain Cook’s stopover.
It’s a young fellow like LaShondra David Mosa’Ati trying to put his kingdom on the map these days.