Volume 12 Week 5

Sunday, June 25


 

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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

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Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney

 

(Posted 1 a.m., April 6)
Olympic hurdler shares keys to success with Sir Wilfrid Laurier students
By Fred Sherwin
OrleansOnline.ca

Students at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School got a special visit from a local Olympian on Wednesday who brought with him a message that they can overcome any barriers put before them and ultimately succeed.

As a hurdler, Sekou Kaba knows all about barriers. He’s been trying to master physical barriers ever since he took up the sport of track and field in 2001.

Canadian Olympic hurdler Sekou Kaba addresses a group of students at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School. Fred Sherwin/Photo

Years of training and sacrifice have brought him to the pinacle of his sport in Canada and the starting blocks of the 110-metre hurdles at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janiero last winter.

Kaba was expected to make it through the heats and into the semi-finals when a combination of a rain-soaked track and poor footing caused him to clip the second to last hurdle with his lead foot, lose his balance and very nearly fall to the track before righting himslef and crossing the finish line in seventh place.

As Kaba described it to his young audience, 13 years of training culminated in a race that took just 13 seconds to complete and he had come up short in his goal thanks to circumstances he was unable to control.

“When I crossed that finish line in seventh place, I was left with a choice to make. Yes, I was upset and cried a few tears, but I could either feel sorry for myself and pout, or I could snap out of it and join my buddies in the stands and enjoy the rest of the Olympics, which is exactly what I did and I guarantee you that it changed the course of the Olympics for me. It was the most fun I ever had and I wouldn’t change what happened to me for the world.”

Kaba’s journey to the Olympics started after he had immigrated to Michigan from his native Ghana at 10 years of age. He had difficulty speaking English and was often bullied by the other kids.

After one such altercation, a friend's father told him that one day he would do something that the other boys would be incapable of doing. Little did he know at the time that the one thing he would be better at was hurdling over eight barriers spread out over 110 metres.

From Michigan, Kaba's family moved to Georgia where his fear of being bullied caused him to give up track for two years from the age of 14 to 16. When he finally resumed hurdling, he qualified for the Georgia state championships twice and placed fifth in Grade 11. The next summer the Kabas moved to Ottawa where Sekou won the city and regional high school championship in 2009 competing for Sir Robert Borden.

In 2012, Kaba became a Canadian citizen and just missed out on qualifying for the Summer Olympics in London by a tenth of a second. The disappointment of not making the Olympic team motivated him to train even harder and eventually realize his Olympic dream.

Kaba says the secret to his success has been to follow four key rules which he calls the KABA Keys to Success -- Kindness, Asking, Believing in yourself, and Adjusting to life’s circumstances.

“If you apply the KABA keys to your life, you’ll do great things,” Kaba told his young audience.

At the end of his presentation, Kaba jumped oved a 42-inch hurdle he had brought with him as a prop, to a loud ovation.

Kaba says he speaks to students about the powers of the KABA Keys to Success in conquering bullying and overcoming hurdles every chance he gets.

“I’ve discovered my purpose through sports. I didn’t have this growing up -- Olympians sharing their stories. And storytelling, when done well, can have an amazing impact,” said Kaba.

Judging by the impact he seemed to have on the students who hung on his every word at Sir Wilfrid Laurier, he is having a positive impact on students one school at a time.

(Posted 1 p.m., March 28)

 

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