In all honesty, the first time I’d even heard of Barack Obama was in Mombasa, Kenya while working with Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in 2007.
Upon the conclusion of the senior women’s race, several athletes on the team, most notably Princeton grad Cack Ferrell (left/photo by Paul Merca), said to several staff members that whenever they ran by a particular point on the Mombasa Golf Course, where the race was held, numerous Kenyans would yell at the Americans, “Obama! Obama! Obama!”
During the first laps of the race, many of our gals were thinking as they ran, “Osama!”, as in Osama bin Laden, the founder of the Al-Qaeda terrorist movement responsible for masterminding the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
That was not a good thing for the American women to be thinking about during the 8-k race, as Team USA traveled everywhere around Mombasa with an armed escort of the team bus, consisting of Kenyan military personnel vehicles in front and behind the team bus, and armed State Department personnel on the bus itself, especially in light of the murder of the wife of a State Department employee in Nairobi several weeks before our appearance.
However, as they ran by the fans in the subsequent laps, it became apparent that they were yelling “Obama” instead, noting that the new President’s father is originally from Kenya.
As I returned to the US from Kenya, I had the opportunity to read up on the man who is now our President on this very historic day in America, and the reason why the Kenyans attending the race yelled “Obama” to our athletes.
Speaking of our new President, here's a video, courtesy of media partner RunnerSpace.com of his appearance at Hayward Field in Eugene last year during the campaign:
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