There can’t be many Olympic medal prospects who use bits of rubble for weights and train on a track with gaping holes. Yet Abubaker Kaki Khamis, a genuine hope for Sudan in the 800m, has to make do with the sort of standards that the West’s pampered athletes would turn their noses up at. In March he was crowned world indoor champion – the youngest ever.
Sudan has no record in athletics but it’s no exaggeration to think that they could emerge as a real power over 400m and 800m in the next few seasons, aping neighbours Ethiopia and Kenya who have made the longer distances their own.
The irony is that Darfur campaigners are desperate to use the Beijing Olympics to increase pressure on China for its links to the Khartoum regime which is waging war in Darfur. But talk of a boycott goes down badly with the dozen or so Sudanese athletes – half of whom come from Darfur – with a chance of making the Games.
They are desperate to show the world a different side of Sudan, one that is not brimming with war, hunger and poverty. And there are people from all over Sudan in the team.
It’s not often we hear stories of hope from Sudan but this is one of them. Even if they have to train in a ramshackle stadium with blocks of concrete.