He is one of the first Eritrean Olympians who carried our Flag across the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. Bolota Asmerom. Leaving his home town at a young age, Bolota dreamt to name his country at one of the world’s biggest competition someday. Still working hard to achieve the dream, he has participated at different contests representing his country leading his way to become one of the youngest athletics coaches of our time. In addition to working his ambitions become a reality, this young Eritrean is humble enough to research on the current standard of the Eritrean athletics, in which he hopes to extend a helping hand to the Eritrean athletes.
Today, Q&A presents a brief chat he had with Ermias Ghebreleul, a sport journalist of Eri-Tv.
- -How did you get into sports?
My family were always into sports as long as I can remember. I even had an aunt who became a referee. Beside my family’s influence, my brother got into running by the time we went to America. He was very good and passionate about it. He tried to get me into it as well, but I was more into basketball at first. Nevertheless, I joined the wrestling team in my high school which I wasn’t very good at. I was constantly losing as I got weak before finishing the match. So my coach told me to try out running with my brother since we went to the same school. Surprisingly, I was doing great but my brother was the only one who kept defeating me in the races. I really tried hard to be better. And that is when my wrestling coach told me to stop wrestling and continue running as I was much better at it.
- -Do you think you were physically unfit for wrestling?
That could probably be the reason. We habeshan people are skinny by nature, which is good for running. But I guess running suited me not only as I was physically fit but also to my personal state of mind. I enjoyed getting up in the morning and running alone. And for that reason I continued being an athlete.
- -How did you decide to represent Eritrea at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney?
I left when I was a kid. Which is why I really didn’t know much about my country. My father was shocked to find out that I didn’t really know much about where I came from and that I didn’t have connections. For almost two years he took the time to tell me about Eritrea and its history. He made me fall in love with my country and made me have this vision to someday name it in the world.
By the time I went to University and made great progress in my timing, I believed that I can participate in big competitions. When I had the chance to participate, I just took the opportunity. It was a difficult competitions, especially since I was young and a beginner. But I believe I have gained much more at the time.
- -You are one of the first Eritrean Olympians that held the flag, how did it feel?
I still remember the moment as if it was yesterday. Nebiat Habtemariam held the flag at the opening ceremony and I had it at last. It was one of the moments I was proud and felt pride for. It was a huge moment for all the Eritreans. Since it was our first time to participate at the Olympics, we had a long line of hard work to walk. We used to get into contests in different states. Basically, it was tiring and exciting. What I consider my most unforgettable moment is that my team chose me to hold the flag at the stadium at the closing ceremony.
- -You were also engaged in different contests in college. How did you manage school and sport?
In America, sports are supported by the academics. It’s the universities or colleges that back up your sport career. Even the big sport institutions or sponsors look at universities and they even choose you depending on the big competitions held by the schools.
I went to one of the academically known universities of America, UC Berkeley. The university didn’t care as much about sports as other universities. I was very good at school and managed to score high GPA. Because that is the only way that I can be competitive with the students. I worked hard so I wouldn’t drop out. However, I had my coach’s support because they know that studies can be tough. So it was a bit hard but I had to manage with the support that I had from everyone to succeed in both, which is academics and school.
- -One of the biggest competitions you had was New-York Marathon 2008, you got in 2hr16min …
That was my first marathon competition; I got in 10th place. The result I got was very motivating considering I was a first timer as a marathoner. It is more of a remarkable contest, I see it as a cross country competition since the landscapes change a lot. I have made many mistakes, of course, which resulted in my delay of timing. For instance my choice of shoes, which became out of use by the time I run the 30k. I was in good condition and spirit. Despite my plan to continuously participate in marathon, I couldn’t do it because getting ready to a marathon does cost a lot. It takes upto four months of intense training which means less income. Marathon requires a 100% dedication.
- -Which do you think is the biggest award you have won?
For me it is the medal I won for first place at the ten- pack contest of our university. Honestly, it is a small contest but for me it was very encouraging and one of my greatest moments. It was the time that I had proved to my dad that I can be great at it, and my father was proud to have witnessed the moment. Again, in 5000m in Belgium, I came in 13.15. What I remember about this specific contest is that I fell down during the competition which resulted in my 10 sec delay. But it was a good time.
- -Currently you have become a coach, which is easier than to be a runner?
It is easier to make yourself work than to someone else, of course. However, it is satisfying to guide someone to be a successful athlete. Before I was just receiving advice and experiences from the other skilled athletes, but now I am able to do the same for the young athletes. I want to work hard to bring some of the best athletes we have ever seen. I would very much like to see my athletes be at the top ten list.
- -Don’t you think you became a coach too soon?
You are definitely right. But as I said before, I had to work to gain an income. That is how I got into coaching. I had plan to keep running beside the coaching job. Coaching got interesting for me and I totally shifted. Which, by the way, I am lucky to have reached this point.
- -You are educational psychology graduate; how does it help you in coaching?
It massively does. I am also a teacher, I have taught in different levels from elementary to college level. I take sport as a much broader subject. For instance, through running I was able to know more about biology, chemistry, and physics. So, yes it does help me a lot. I give my trainees papers and use different techniques.
- -Athletics in Eritrea, your opinion.
There is so much progress. I remember the athletes didn’t have much support by the society, but now I can see that we have many young skilled athletes coming up, although I want to stress that, in order for the athletics to develop good managers and coaches should be available. What I am most happy for is that we have many female athletes coming up. And that we should support them in every way.
- -Something you want to add at last?
I have come here to enjoy my time, but not only did I enjoy it with family but with the athletes of Eritrea as well. They have become my family. Also I would like to say people call me volata, an Italian word to describe a final sprint in cycling. My name is pure Tigrigna, and is pronounced Bolo’ta.