FAR away from home and facing the pressure of his first Olympic Games, Perth runner Peter Bol turned to letters from a Melville primary school for comfort and inspiration.
A Year 4 class at West Leeming Primary, where Bol’s mother Hanan Kuku works as a cleaner, wrote to the emerging track star in the run-up to Rio.
Bol visited the school on Friday to thank the children, revealing he held off opening the letters until the eve of his 800m Olympic heat.
“Reading what the students wrote to me was an amazing feeling and provided a lot of motivation,” Bol said.
“Track is an individual sport but receiving all these letters from West Leeming Primary, a school I didn’t even go to, made me realise I wasn’t alone.
“As much as the kids here think I’m inspiring, I think they inspired me just as much when I was over in Rio.”
Bol posted a time of 1:49.6 to finish sixth in his heat, falling less than two seconds shy of a berth in the Olympic final.
“I spoke to my parents a lot and they reminded me that I had only been in the sport for a short time and had already made it to an Olympics, so that did take the pressure off a little bit,” he said.
The 22-year-old, a South Sudanese refugee who has lived in Australia since he was six, grew up playing basketball and took up track only five years ago.
“I’ve got some time off now to rest and re-focus and then I’ll start preparing for the World Athletics Championships in London next year,” Bol said.
“If I can perform well there that will set me up for the Commonwealth Games and then the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, where the goal is to medal.”
Doreen Stewart, teacher of the Year 4 class who wrote to Bol, said the runner had inspired her students to chase their dreams.
“Peter has been great for our kids and really drove home the point that they can become whatever they want to be if they put in the effort,” she said.