competition · femalestrength · fitness · racing · team sports

Meet our newest sports hero: Jolien Boumkwo, Belgian shot-putter and substitute hurdler

Hey y’all– in case you’re in need of some happy, joyful, positive news today: look no further. Meet Jolien Boumkwo, Belgian shot-putter and all-around good egg. She literally embodied the spirit of teamwork on Saturday at the European Championships in Track and Field. How did she do this? By winning her shot-putting competition? Nope. She finished seventh, which is excellent. But no, it wasn’t that.

Boumkwo ran the hurdles race even though she is not a hurdler, but in fact a shot putter (completely different skillsets, I’m told). Why did she do it? Because: a) no one else on her team was available (due to injuries); and b) they needed someone in the race in order: b1) not to get disqualified from continued competition; and b2) get one point for their team in the hopes of not getting relegated from Division 1.

So Boumkwo did it. Here is the race. Watch it; you’ll be glad you did.

Shot putter Jolien Boumkwo, running carefully and powerfully over hurdles on her way to a team point for Belgium.

I love it that she’s tall enough basically to step over the hurdles and that she’s being careful not to get injured. It’s also nice (and appropriate) that she got high fives and handshakes from some of the other hurders after the race.

For contrast, here’s what Boumkwo doing what she’s trained to do.

Jolien Boumkwo, poetry and strength and precision in motion.

In her spare time, Boumkwo throws hammers, too. Note how far this one goes.

I came across the story in the New York Times, and of course the commenters had plenty to say. The comments were about equally divided between congratulations and thanks to her for demonstrating the spirit of teamwork, and shared anecdotes of cases where folks substituted in a not-their-sport competition and took one for the team. There were high jumpers who tried pole vaulting, hurdlers who tried relay races, swimmers who tried diving, and so on. They all said it gave them an appreciation for others’ talent and a feeling of team unity.

Or course there was one crabby person who said Boumkwo’s performance was embarrassing. Naturally, the rest of us piled on, replying that they were quite mistaken. Here’s what I added:

Her team needed someone in the race to get a point, and she volunteered (obviously with the approval of her coaches). It was heartening to see her, a champion athlete in her own right, put her ego aside to move safely and strongly through the race on behalf of her team. It wasn’t embarrassing– not to her, not to her competitors, not to her team, not to me, and not to other sports fans. It was joyful, smile-inducing, and inspiring in the best ways.

I assume you agree, FIFI readers?

Have I missed any other heroes this week? Let us know. Or tell us about your favorite moments of team participation.

6 thoughts on “Meet our newest sports hero: Jolien Boumkwo, Belgian shot-putter and substitute hurdler

  1. I love this! I’m disappointed in many of the other hurdlers, who, in my opinion, ought to have flocked around her for a group hug after her performance.

  2. The fact that it wasn’t “world class” caliber is both what made it “embarrassing” per that commenter and also led you to give her the “literally embodied the spirit of teamwork” shout-out. It’s both of those things. Let’s be honest, most 29 year old women aren’t going to be up to running the 100m hurdles. And, also, most of us would hate to be known for what we looked like doing something completely out of our wheelhouse when there are other things that we’ve actually done with our lives.
    Quite frankly, I’ve thought, in the last several decades, that there ought to be a ‘walk-ons’ team from the audience at world championships and olympics. People who are almost normal, who can drop out at any time, and who can show us exactly how amazing those “disappointing” athletes are.

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