Phobay-Kutu Akoi served as the flag bearer for her home nation of Liberia.
Aug. 3, 2012
Queens, N.Y. -
In the sport of track & field, years of training often come down to a few tenths of a second which was exactly the case for Phobay Kutu-Akoi as she ran an 11.52 second 100-meter dash in her heat at the 2012 Olympic Games, less than .4 seconds behind the last semifinal qualifier in her group.
The 11.52 second split was identical to Kutu-Akoi's performance at the 2009 Metropolitan Championships that earned her the St. John's and Liberian national record in the 100-meter dash.
"We were very excited to see Phobay run in her preliminary round against the best sprinters in the world at the Olympics today," said head track & field coach Jim Hurt. "We are very proud of her and her journey that began here at St. John's and took her to London for the 2012 Olympic Games. Phobay is an outstanding person and we are quite proud of all her accomplishments."
Kutu-Akoi got off to a strong start from the blocks as she went step for step with some of the world's best athletes. Jamaican sprinter and reigning 200-meter gold medalist, Veronica Campbell-Brown, separated herself from the pack and eventually took the heat with a 10.94 second mark.
There were 56 competitors from countries all across the world that qualified for Round 1 of the 100-meter dash competition. Kutu-Akoi's time made her the 41st fastest participant in the 100-meter dash.
She qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games with an 11.37 second time at the Bobcat Classic in San Marcos, Texas on April 28.
Kutu-Akoi's story has gained attention as she immigrated to the United States in 1999 due to the political unrest in her home nation of Liberia. The Liberia of her childhood was embattled by constant civil wars that made life uneasy at times in the small African nation.
"I wear that uniform so proudly. Every time I put it on, it brings me back to where I came from," said Kutu-Akoi. "When we moved from Liberia, it was December of 1999, and there weren't any wars going on at the time but there were previous civil wars that I had experienced. It was traumatizing but when you are younger you don't really realize what's going on, you just go through it to survive. My parents did the best job they could of keeping us away from as much trauma as possible. A lot of times during the civil wars you'd have to stop going to school for two or three months as you'd wait for things to cool down. But I love my country. I had a really great childhood. I couldn't see myself representing any other country and I'm really excited. This has been a dream of mine all along."
Keep up with Phobay's Olympic experience through RedStormSports.com and on Twitter (@STJ_Track_XC) and be sure to use the #JohnniesInLondon hashtag.