Given the many hardships that Abdoulie Asim has endured before and after seeking asylum in 2018, being denied the gold medal in the 200m at the Australian championships ranks way down the list.
A converted Christian, Asim represented Gambia at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and then refused to return home, claiming refugee status due to feared religious persecution from Muslim family members.
He made his way to Sydney and lived under a bridge in Parramatta for several days before moving into a hostel for homeless men, where he stayed for a year.
The turning point came when he linked up with hugely respected coach John Quinn, whose squad includes national 400m champion Bendere Oboya.
Asim was overjoyed at crossing the line first in 20.78 seconds in the men’s 200m on Sunday, only to later be disqualified for running out of his lane, gifting the national title to runner-up Alex Beck, who completed the 200m-400m double.
Asim’s dream is to represent his adopted homeland of Australia at the Olympics.
But as he yet to secure a passport, the 28-year-old’s only realistic chance of competing in Tokyo is seemingly as a member of the Refugee Olympic Team.
Asim, who goes by the nickname of Busta, said it was still too dangerous for him to return home, although he remains in contact with his mother.
“She is the most important thing for me in this world; as long as I am happy she is happy,” he said.
“I do not talk to anyone except for my mum. Even talking to my mum sometimes is hard, so she goes outside and I talk to her through my friends.
“I am working now in a warehouse and I train too.
“Sometimes you do what you do to survive.”
Quinn paid tribute to what Asim has been able to achieve on and off the track in his adopted home.
“He has been in my squad now for over two years and he is just a fantastic person to coach,” said Quinn.
“He is very strong in spirit and humble and he’s going to make a great coach himself one day.
“We have been working on his speed and strength and I think he is moving into a new level of an athlete – right now he is still a refugee seeking asylum.”
Such is Asim’s generosity, that despite his difficult personal circumstances he insisted on sharing the $12,500 prize money from winning the Burnie Gift earlier this year with his training partners.
“I went over to Busta and said ‘you can’t give away your money like this’,” said Quinn.
And he replied ‘hey coach, you can’t tell me what to do, we are all in this together. This is what athletics is – you help me, I help you’.
“So I have learnt a very valuable lesson from my athlete.”