Peter Bol - success story of the Sudanese-Australian community
Nagmeldin (Peter) Bol is Australia's first Olympics finalist since 1968 over the arduous distance of 800m sprint. He raced three times at the Tokyo Olympics achieving an Australian national record and a spot in the final, where he led for most of the race and moved to forth in the grueling surge to the finish line.
Peter Bol was born in Khartoum, Sudan, in 1994 to a large Sudanese family with Sudanese mother and a father from South Sudan. His family fled war torn Sudan and moved to Egypt where the they resided for a few years before arriving in Australia in 2004. The ten years old Peter Bol settled with his large family in Toowoomba, a place known for its strong Sudanese migrant community and soon after arrival established himself as a local sporting talent. His dedication to basketball granted him a sports scholarship for St Norbert College, a private Catholic secondary school in Queens Park, Perth, Western Australia and the whole family moved from Queensland to Western Australia in 2008.
Peter Bol's running career as a junior started in an Inter-house Athletics Carnival in October 2010. In the following years as an under 20 and in Junior ranks he developed as a strong runner winning in 2013 the State under 20 in the 400 and the 800 distance and being just one second slower than the open winner in the 1500 distance.
In a speech in 2016 at St Norbert College, Peter Bol shared his favourite African proverb with the students: “If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together”. During his interview post the final in Tokyo he upheld the sentiment by offering gratitude for the support of the whole of Australia, his team, his coach and his peer and training partner, Joseph Deng. Joseph Deng and Peter Bol share similar story. Joseph Deng was born in a refugee camp in Kenya after his mother left South Sudan to escape the war. At age six Joseph Deng's family moved to Australia, settling like Peter Bol's family in Toowoomba.
Today Peter Bol is truly the joy of his migrant community for his outstanding achievement in the Tokyo Olympics but also for the subtle and quiet awareness Peter Bol brings about on the topics of migrants and race. In an interview taken during the grueling 2020 of closed borders, lock downs, cancelled Olympics, Peter Bol shared his support for the conversations around the Black Lives Matter movement and his view about the perception of someone as a refugee or a migrant.
“It’s almost like it’s tragic, but really, I don’t think people should be seen as a refugee or a migrant, or something like that. It should, it’s almost like a trophy. Like it’s your identity is where you come from. And if people always want to, if people want to associate it with bad things, then I mean, yes, there’s the bad things and there’s the bad struggles, but who doesn’t go through bad struggles and whatnot? We have people in Australia that go through some terrible things too. And I think it’s better if we have a better conversation to get to know the person instead of the assumptions."
Thank you Peter Bol for your success story and for offering a better conversation about migrants and race.
Congratulations to Peter Bol, his family, the migrant community and the whole of Australia!