A dusty country road somewhere in Lower Austria couldn’t be further away from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. What is a meandering band of concrete to anyone else is to Lemawork Ketema a straight line that leads directly to the 2016 Olympic Games.
After winning the Wings for Life World Run twice, the refugee-turned-running-miracle has his sights set on the ultimate goal: Representing his new-found homeland of Austria in the Olympics.
“Lemawork’s accomplishments have been noted and things are moving along to getting him citizenship. His running is right where it should be, but we still need to work on his focus,” says Harald Fritz, Lemawork’s coach, friend and manager.
To tell someone who has won the Wings for Life World Run twice (and set a new world record, running 79.9 kilometres in the second edition) that he should work on his focus – though with a wink and a smile – is quite something. However, it’s an indication of how hard Lemawork’s team is working on chasing his dream.
Up there with the world’s best runners, when you’re at the top of your game, the tiniest decision can mean the difference between winning and losing. “One bad decision made in the heat of the moment and you’ve lost your chance,” says Fritz.
So close yet so far
In this year’s Rio de Janeiro marathon, Lemawork missed out on the Austrian Olympic marathon-distance qualifying time of 2:14:00 by little more than a heartbeat: 23 seconds. But he set his personal best.
“That’s what I mean – he decided to focus too much on another runner and synced his pace with the other guy, completely overlooking how close he was to punching his ticket for Rio,“ Fritz adds with a smile, set on helping Lemawork make better decisions and keep his focus in his next race.
The biggest smile, however, belongs to the man himself. Lemawork Ketema. A man whose journey in running lead him from Ethiopia to Austria and, hopefully, to Rio. A man who took to winding roads to chase a dream, knowing that the path to success is far from smooth.