July 24, 2017 11:16pm
Bendere Oboya is so proudly an Aussie that she had the perfect answer in the Bahamas when a string of Kenyan athletes quizzed her on why she hadn’t found a way to run for her birth country of Ethiopia.
“I kept getting that question at the track and I just said I live in Sydney, I’ve every reason to represent Australia and be really grateful for opportunities I never thought I’d have,” the engaging new 400m starlet said.
Her big personal best (52.69 sec) to win gold was Australia’s standout showing at the Commonwealth Youth Games because it has spun this tiny 45kg sliver of a girl within tantalising reach of a far grander stage on the Gold Coast in April.
The run was inside the B-qualifying level for the Commonwealth Games and has thrust her into the mix for the medal-quality 4 x 400m relay squad because only Rio Olympics darling Morgan Mitchell has run faster as an Aussie this year.
Oboya, 17, dedicated her two gold medals in the Bahamas to her parents for their sacrifices to set up a better life in Sydney’s west at Pendle Hill.
She was just three when parents Akech and Opamo found a way out of Gambela, in the western corner of Ethiopia near the South Sudan border where indiscriminate killings, poverty and instability jar the daily tempo.
Now only photo albums remind the Year 12 schoolgirl of her former life.
“I grew up as a Mormon and it was mainly the church and other family members who helped us with furniture and basics when we arrived in Australia,” Oboya said in her distinct Aussie accent.
She can’t remember her mother Akech, a chicken factory worker, ever being on a proper holiday, certainly not one to the Caribbean where the youngster held the Queen’s Baton in the 34th country it has visited on a 230,000km relay to the Gold Coast for the Commonwealth Games.
This pocket-sized surprise who has never done gym work to aid her strength may just be on a crazy course to the Gold Coast herself.
“Everything is going a bit too fast…I never expected my times to drop so far because I was like running 22 seconds slower at the start of last year when I didn’t even have a coach,” Oboya said.
“I would really love to represent at the Commonwealth Games if I’m ready. I think I’m ready.
“My endurance is just my genes because I’ve never done gym. I can get a lot stronger and learn more about the 400…that’s my race even though people always expect me to say the 1500.”
She has already knocked back a US scholarship to Duke University to do it the Australian way.