Shot-Putter Bails Out Team at Hurdles, Goes Viral

Belgium's Jolien Boumkwo gets the call when the team's hurdlers are both injured
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2023 11:50 AM CDT
Updated Jul 1, 2023 6:30 AM CDT

Jolien Boumkwo is an elite track and field athlete—just not in the area she's now best known for. As NPR reports, the Belgian shot-putter with 12 national championships to her name finished seventh on Friday at the European Athletics Team Championships in Poland, which normally would have signaled the end of her competition. But on Saturday, the national record-holder was called up for an event in which she was a rookie: the 100-meter hurdles. With two hurdlers scratched due to injury, team Belgium faced being eliminated from the first division. There's a caveat: Teams are awarded two points just for participating, no matter the finish.

Says Boumkwo, per CNN: "I was like: It would be a pity if just we would lose by one point so I will just take this on my account and just go for it and enjoy every moment." Boumkwo did just that, and her team spirit has since gone viral. The race went predictably and memorably, the outlet notes: Boumkwo finished last at 32.18 seconds, some 19 seconds behind the next runner. Having cleared it with her coach, she ambled over the hurdles and into fame. "I'm really happy that this race symbolized something—the team spirit, the team playership—and that people from different situations ... really see it and it really connects people," she tells CNN.

NPR notes that despite Boumkwo's efforts, the Belgian national team finished 14th out of 16 and faces possible relegation to Division 2, as the bottom three teams are sent down. That's not stopping the good feels. "All the nice messages—it's unbelievable," Boumkwo says, per CNN. "I'm really surprised … I hope that I can still enjoy this moment for a long time." (More shot put stories.)

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