• Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Dreams never die: A comeback story

Dreams never die: A comeback story

The crowd went wild when Freida was announced as the winner of the keenly-contested Decathlon competition, becoming the woman over the age of 40 years to do so and setting a new African record. It was a true comeback story with so many lessons in sheer determination and perseverance.

Freida had been a star athlete from her teenage days, beginning her career from high school from which time she was nicknamed ‘the jumping gazelle’ because she was excellent in running races as well as in the field events. She was so good that it was often said that her co-competitors were there just to fulfil all righteousness. She made the National Athletic team at 18 years of age and represented the country in several international competitions, winning many medals across the events.

Everything went well with her career for years until she failed a drug test which was odd, especially as it coincided with the time when her performance started declining. She would show up late for practice and it took the keen observation of her coach of many years to realise that something was amiss with Freida. Things got progressively worse until she was given a 5-year ban from all track and field events.
Her coach stood by her throughout the scandal but demanded to know the full details of what had gone wrong. After some gentle coercion, Freida spilled the tea. She had started dating her co-star from another country who had introduced her to drugs.

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He had told her at the time that it would help her relax, and he could show her how to use them without any traces showing up in her urine samples. Even though she was skeptical at first, she finally gave in because she loved him and wanted him to be happy with her. However, it became an addiction and the relationship crashed because of that. He wanted nothing to do with her anymore and didn’t want to be associated with her because of his own career. She was 27 years at the time.

Freida’s life was literally over. The one thing she had known and done excellently all her life had been taken from her. To make matters worse, she’d found that she was pregnant and was likely to walk the pregnancy path alone. It was too much for her and she left the country to live with her sister and pick up the pieces of her life again. The sheer trauma of all that had happened and the huge sense of responsibility knowing that she was going to bring another life into the world had sobered Freida up a great deal. Being in a new country where she wasn’t known helped her to focus on raising her son well, that had become her one major life. The sports chapter was over.

As Freida’s son grew older, he also started excelling in track events. He had been the best runner in his primary school and also did very well in the field events, winning an all-expense paid scholarship to attend an exclusive sport-centred high school. Parents also had a sporting club and to encourage her son, Freida started taking part in the activities too. Before long, someone recognised her, and word spread that ‘the jumping gazelle’ had resurfaced and was still as powerful as ever.

One of the parents had sent her the registration link for the Decathlon event for Age 40 and above. When she saw the prize money for the winner, her eyes popped but beyond that it had been her dream to compete in a decathlon event since she was a teenager.

As soon as she decided to register, it was a though a full squad appeared to help her. Coaches, trainers, physicians, sponsors, and a PR team all emerged, and the preparations began in earnest. It was a 2-day event that saw many of the competitors drop out. Partaking in a decathlon at over 40 years of age was no mean feat but Freida had already decided that she owed herself, her son and the team a great finish, and this she accomplished in great style. The story of her comeback was a huge inspiration to many, and evidence that it is never too late to achieve a dream.