Sunday, August 17, 2008

Benjamin Boukpeti wins a bronze, but does anyone care?

Ever heard of Benjamin Boukpeti? Well, he probably never of you either. Ever heard of Togo? No. Well, Boukpeti won Togo's first ever Olympic medal -- a bronze in the in the Slalom-canoe. Anyway, The Wall Street Journal wrote a story Saturday titled "The Glory of Just Showing Up: For many small nations, the Olympic experience lasts only a few minutes." Our friend Boukpeti (at right) gets a mention in the story, which is where we heard about him.

It seems he got a mention in Mitch Albom's column today, only Albom never bothered to write his name. Albom writes: "Apparently, the Olympics exist to provide nations for athletes to compete for, not the other way around. Use a grandfather's lineage. Use a pro contract to leverage a passport. Whatever gets you in. Last week, Togo won its first Olympic medal, thanks to a French kayaker who apparently has been to Togo once -- as a child." We think he is referring to our friend Boukpeti.

By the way, according to Wikipedia (God's gift to people too lazy to do any real research), Togo is officially called Togolese Republic. It's in West Africa with a population of 5 million. The country gained its independence from France in 1960, which is where our friend Boukpeti comes in -- at least according to one Mitch Albom.

Anyway, the WSJ writes: "For the richest, brawniest countries here, the medal count is all that counts. China, Russia and the U.S. are in Beijing to "win" the Olympics. But among the 222 countries that have sent athletes to the modern Games since 1896, only 130 have brought a medal home. The rest ... march in the opening parade and then, after a few minutes -- or seconds -- in the pool or on the track, they're out."

It's nice to see the Togo's of the world win a medal. Heck, even if they had a hired gun like Boukpeti do it.

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