Fifty-three years later, Peter Bol becomes the 5th Australian and just the 6th Oceanian Athlete to make the Final of the Olympic Games 800m for Men. The progression to the Olympic Final has been all class, Area Record each round; courageous yet confident – Peters’ perfection, a story 27 years in the making.
Bol, 27, was born in Sudan and immigrated to Australia as a young child. The family settled in Perth, where he started Athletics. He was a talented Junior Athlete, winning the 2013 National Junior title to cap off his junior career. In 2015, Bol decided to leave Perth and move to Melbourne to be coached by Justin Rinaldi and train with then-National Record Holder Alex Rowe. That moved paid off with Bol, making the Olympic team in 2016.
“That was my sacrifice to try to make the Rio team. Perth was far away from the eastern states, and I had not much competition over there and no coach. So I moved over to Justin to take the next step, and fortunately, I did.”
Following on from Olympic Games in 2016, Bol qualified for his second Australian team, going to the World Championships in London. In London, Bol would only race once, as in Rio; he was run out of the Heats on both occasions.
Bol started 2018 by making the Australian Championships 800m Final but finished 7th and wouldn’t make the team for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. He would take that disappointment and head to Europe, where he would make his mark. In his first race in Europe, in the Stockholm Olympic Stadium, he would break 1.45 for the first time and win, going stride for stride with Training Partner Joeseph Deng.
His 2018 European campaign showed constancy at a new level, and he would take that into 2019 and win his first Australian Senior Championships. He would go on to represent Australia once again at the World Championships in Doha.
Following the disappointment of Doha, Bol would attack the Australian domestic season like he hadn’t done before. Early 2020, he raced three times for three wins, including twice running 1.45 (Sydney at the first-ever Continental Tour Meeting and then again in Canberra a week later). The Pandemic then cause havoc to the rest of the domestic season and eventually the international season for 2020.
Bol, took a risk, on the knowledge that there would be a smaller and scaled-down European Season in 2020, travelled to Europe to seek out the competition. This paid off in his first race in Monaco, running sub-1.45, for the second time in Monaco. Despite running well in Europe in 2020, Bol returned to Australia, still not guaranteed his spot in Tokyo. He had run under the qualifying time in Europe, but that wouldn’t count. Bol would attack the domestic season with vigour to get under the 1.45.20. His races throughout the domestic season showed confidence that he can run the qualifying standard. Bol narrowly missed the time at the Continental Tour Meet in Canberra and then again in Brisbane. However, he would go on to win his second National title.
Bol and his team (coach Justin Rinaldi and Manager James Templeton) decided to stay in Australia after the domestic season and target the Oceania Invitational Series Meets on the Gold Coast with doubts around what races were available. This decision paid off; Bol was undoubtedly the star of the Meets. He ran 1.44.88 and 1.44.62. Bol had booked his ticket to Tokyo and shown just what he was capable of as well. Bol then headed to Europe to test himself against the best.
Prior to heading to Europe, Bol had lost one race in 2020, a lowkey affair to his training partner Brad Mathas. Bol would continue winning ways, winning in Nancy, France, before heading to Gateshead for the British Diamond League Meet.
After Finishing third in Gateshead, Bol was excited. “When I went to Gateshead and came third, I was like to James [Templeton, manager] and Justin [Rinaldi, coach] I think we can win a medal. And they were like, let’s not get too excited; you’ve got to get to the final first, so now we’re here – the only thing is, I wish my boy Josey were here with me.”
Josey, his training partner, and former Oceania Record Holder, Joseph Deng, a prodigious talent himself, has somewhat overshadowed Bol’s hard work and professionalism. However, ironically a change of the guard, and as Deng raced at the Queensland Cross Country Championships, Bol broke his great friends’ record.
Bol joins a small group of Men from Oceania who have made an Olympic 800m Final. Only five men have had that honour before and with a great success rate. It started at the first modern Olympic games, with Edwin Flack winning gold before Peter Snell winning the title twice and Ralph Doubell winning in 1968, to make it three in a row for Oceania.
Bol will race the Men’s 800m Final on August 3rd.
Oceania Representatives in the 800m Final
- Ralph Doubell 1968 1st Australia
- Peter Snell 1964 1st New Zealand
- Peter Snell 1960 1st New Zealand
- Bill Butchart 1956 8th Australia
- Gerald Backhouse 1936 8th Australia
- Edwin Flack 1896 1st Australia
Photo Credit: Casey Sims