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Abdi Abdirahman on Being US Olympic Team's Oldest Runner, His Journey From Young Refugee to American Athlete

Tuesday June 22, 2021

Abdi Abdirahman, now 44, said he never ran in high school, and began his career in college at 19 years old.

At 44, Abdihakem Abdirahman is the oldest American runner ever to make the U.S. Olympic team, but he’s not letting age stop him. “Thirty's the new 20 and I think it's the truth, and I'm proof of that,” he told Inside Edition Digital while sharing his story.

“I'm a 44-year-old, and I'm a member of the U.S. Olympic team. I'll probably be one of the oldest people in the Olympic village, especially in the running events. I'm just representing all those middle-aged men who's out there who think they cannot run.”

Somalia-born Abdi was just a child when his family was forced into refugee camps. They eventually settled in Arizona and he become a U.S. citizen.

“I'm American. I grew up here,” he said. “This country gave me everything that I wanted in life: a free education, five-time Olympian. I am as proud as American, I am as proud as Somali. I'm proud of both two countries,” he said.

And surprisingly, it was while in college, the peer pressure of watching his friends go to sports practices got Abdi to start running.

“I went to the Pima College coach, and I told him I would love to run, and he asked me if I ever run before. I told him no. And I came second that day. And that was the beginning of my running career, to be honest,” he said. “I never ran in high school at all.”


Despite breaking track records at the University of Arizona, Abdi’s family thought the U.S. was so big, there was no way he could have made the Olympic team. 

“They didn't believe it was real, actually. They didn't believe me until they see me on TV, the opening ceremony in 2000, in 2000 Olympics,” Abdi said.

And he feels forever in debt to his family for their help getting him here. “Coming from Somalia, being in the refugee camp, and moving to U.S. They have sacrificed a lot for me, and there's no way I can repay them.” 

In his new book, “Abdi's World: The Black Cactus on Life, Running, and Fun,” the five-time Olympian gives advice to runners and non-runners alike.

“Just never give up on your dreams,” Abdi said. “Just follow the path of your destiny with open heart and purpose."


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