If you'd told me two weeks ago that I'd be standing here on the blocks today, I would not have believed it, especially after what has transpired this week.
I was the fastest in a dirt poor tiny nation. Standing here for some is an expected outcome, but for me, shortage of funds should have caused me to miss out completely. Travel budgets normally have me travelling by bus, camel, or donkey depending upon the location. A miracle donation had come in for a teammate from relatives in the states and his generosity provided for a few others to join him and I was among those chosen.
With random drug testing removing three of the four best qualifiers, I am sad that they will miss out on the opportunity despite their misfortune being my gain. Part of me wonders if I could have hung in with the best, or whether I'd wither with competition. Another part of me wonders if this race day will be remembered more for its absences than its competitors.
As if that wasn't lucky for me, two more competitors were disqualified for false starts in preliminary heats. As I stand here preparing for the longest 10 seconds of my life, facing 7 of the fastest human beings on the planet, I'm stricken by the colors of all the flags in the stadium on this night. So many nations represented in those colors, while a mere 8 stand on the track.
I am again feeling the fates' fortunes as I prepare to toe in to lane three, my lucky lane. Having the third fastest qualifying time would normally put me near the center of the track and I'm happy with the location.
While my fiercest competitors have been assigned lanes five and six, this will separate me from them by one other competitor. Time, and a short one, will determine if that will be an advantage or disadvantage. I mustn't take any other runner for granted as one misstep can be the difference between first and eighth.
I begin my pre-race ritual.
...envision the start
......set the hands
.........shake the left leg and set
............shake the right and set
...............one knee down to wipe the hands
..................look to the sky
.....................set the hands once more
With the starter's gun, the silence is shattered, my heart races. Accelerating, I blink and the tape is within reach. As the tape falls, the hopes of 5 competitors fall with it. From my vantage point, it is simply too close to call.
Anthems play, flags wave and mothers' tears moisten the ground. Possibly some of mine as well. As the music plays, I feel fortunate, melancholy, proud.