Sogelau Tuvalu is an American Samoan athlete, who briefly found fame at the World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea in 2011. Having failed to make the entry standard for the shot put, as the fastest runner in is high school, Tuvalu was chosen by his coach to compete in the 100 metres, for which no such standard existed for his country.
Thus, on August 27, 2011, Tuvalu, lined up in the fourth heat of the preliminary round of the 100 metres at the Daegu Stadium. Aged just 17, not wearing running spikes and, according to the Daily Mail, ‘twice the size of the other six competitors’, the youngster was fighting a losing battle right from the gun. Commensurate with his pre-race odds, of 50,000/1, Tuvalu was always a long way last and trailed in 4.89 seconds behind the winner, Malaysian Mohammed Noor Imran Hadi.
Nevertheless, Tuvalu ran hard all the way to the finish line, even managing a dip finish, and was rewarded with a personal best time of 15.66 seconds. In slightly breathless, but nonetheless enthusiastic, trackside interview with BBC Sports broadcaster Sonja McLaughlan, he said that his first experience of international competition was ‘really fun’ and, despite his obvious limitations, described athletics as a ‘cool sport for me’. Tuvalu later told French television that he had devoted four hours a day for a month to his preparation for the World Championships and described his participation as ‘a dream come true’.
Remarkably, 15.66 seconds is not the slowest time for the 100 metres recorded at the World Athletics Championships. On August 2, 1997 in Athens, Greece, Kim Collins of Saint Kitts and Nevis ‘ran’ his heat in a time of 21.73 seconds alhough, in his defence, he suffered an injury mid-race, slowed to a walk and limped across the line.