Peter Bol just misses out on Olympic medal, finishing fourth in 800m final

Peter Bol - 4th place

Peter Bol is a man of his word. He is also a man for these times. As he had promised, the first Australian to reach an 800m final at the Olympics since 1968 led from the front on Wednesday night. Bol was not going to be left wondering.

The 27-year-old went early and he went hard, knowing that Kenyan duo Emmanuel Korir and Ferguson Rotich would benefit from a slow start. In the end, Bol’s legs fell just short – he struggled to stay with Korir, Rotich and Poland’s Patryk Dobek as they lifted the pace in the final stretch. If there was an Olympic 700m race, Bol would have secured gold – but the final 100m dash cost him a spot on the Tokyo 2020 podium. Fourth was an immensely creditable result.

The outpouring of support for Bol on social media in the past 24 hours, and particularly after his race on Wednesday, underscored the inspiration he has offered the Australian public. “I didn’t know if I was going to win, but I knew one thing for certain – that the whole of Australia was watching,” he told Channel Seven. “That carried me on.”

Australian runner Peter Bol has narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal after placing fourth in the men’s 800m final in Tokyo.

The 27-year-old got off to a promising start, and by the halfway mark was the leader by a stretch. He stayed at the front until the final bend but was overtaken in the last 200 metres.

“I’d be lying if I said I’m pretty happy right now – the goal was to win,” Bol told the Seven Network after the race. “But I knew one thing for certain – the whole of Australia was watching, and that’s what carried me on, so that I love that part about it.”

Bol said he was “grateful and thankful to everyone in Australia”, adding that the Sudanese community “has inspired the whole nation, and that’s the goal”.

Kenya’s Emmanuel Korir and Ferguson Rotich took the gold and silver medals respectively, while Poland’s Patryk Dobek took bronze.

Scores of people, many of them young children, packed into Bol’s house in Perth to watch the race.

Fellow Australian athletes sang Bol’s praises on social media, praising his performance in the final.

Seven commentator Bruce McAvaney said Bol had “run magnificently”, and that the nation had witnessed a “champion”. 

“We are all so proud of him. There was a maturity beyond his experience. Not beyond his years, but beyond his experience,” he said.

“He can’t win the medal, but he wants to finish fourth. He wants to get the highest placing possible. That’s the pride of a champion. We saw one tonight.”

Wednesday’s race saw Bol become the first Australian man to run in the 800m decider since 1968, when Ralph Doubell won the gold medal in Mexico City.

He ran 1:44.13 and 1:44.11 in the opening round and semi-finals in Tokyo, breaking the national and Oceania record.

Bol was the second-fastest overall qualifier behind Rotich (1:44.04).

Fellow Australians Charlie Hunter and Jeff Riseley were eliminated in the semi-finals.

Bol’s family story began in Africa decades ago. His father, Abdalla Mador Bol – who is from what is now South Sudan – and his Sudanese mother, Hanan Kuku, left Khartoum during the Second Sudanese Civil War. They spent four years in Egypt, effectively stateless.

From Cairo, the family applied for humanitarian visas to resettle in Australia, arriving in 2004.

The family first lived in Toowoomba, Queensland, where youngest daughter Nyi was born and father Abdalla worked on a farm.

The family then moved to Perth to seek better work opportunities and Bol received a basketball scholarship to attend high school at St Norbert College.

While he was a standout on the court, Bol’s athletic abilities were quickly discovered, and he eventually agreed to pursue running. Within five years, he was competing in races around the world.


Peter Bol - 4th place


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