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out of touch: covid stories from wa

Peter Bol

Throughout the pandemic, Olympic runner Peter Bol navigated new ways to train and involve young aspiring athletes on his daily runs.

Out of Touch documents the unique experiences of Western Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic that hit Australia in early 2020.

Peter Bol is a middle-distance runner. Rather than worry about a new Olympic date, he’s been focused on taking each day as it comes. He’s role-modeling young aspiring athletes by inviting them on his daily runs. He’s a young visionary writing and sharing his reflections on the power of syncing the mind, body, and spirit to stay healthy as a person and athlete. Through COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, he presents the opportunity for us to be more curious about each other as an act to build a stronger community connection.

Copyright © 2020 Peter Bol

This story and corresponding images have been licensed to the Centre for Stories and the State Library of Western Australia by the Storyteller. For reproduction and distribution of this story/image please contact the Centre for Stories. 

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Biography/History: Funded by the State Library of Western Australia. This collection of stories, documents, experiences of the COVID 19 pandemic that hit Australia in early 2020. The COVID 19 pandemic led to the declaration of a state of emergency in Western Australia on the 16th of March.

WA went into lockdown between the months of March to May, with further restrictions continuing for months after. During this time, events were cancelled, schools shut down and parks became overcrowded. Thousands of individuals, businesses, communities and organizations were severely impacted as they were forced to work from home social distance and book emergency flights.

This collection, produced by the Centre for Stories in Northbridge, Western Australia, explores these unprecedented effects and contributes a record of this remarkable time in history. Up and Coming Athletics Olympian Peter Bol discusses the effects COVID had on the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.


Peter Bol: I went to school on a bicycle scholarship we had to run, was compulsory, and I won at school for two years and one of my teachers tried to convince me to start running and I said, no way, I’d rather keep playing basketball.


And I wasn’t convinced until I was year 11.  I didn’t even start until I was year 11. But that single decision to say yes; has meant I travelled the whole world because I don’t really think I would never know, but I don’t think I would have struggled as much as I have and I would have learned as much as I have just from that single decision to be able to. And the following year I was flying out of Australia to different places and that’s where you gain motivations, like you see where you could be and then you come back you work harder and you can go somewhere else.


If COVID has taught us anything is to focus on the present. I just found a lot of peace in going back home for two months, being with family, and also found a lot of peace and in being in Australia for a bit longer as an athlete, especially the track and field athlete.


Always traveling. It’s nothing I’m complaining about, but sometimes it does. It adds up and get out of your bed for so long. Last year I was out for four months or something like that. It feels good just being home and somewhere you can call home.


I’ve got a pretty big family, so it’s always good being at home. My sister, we’re pretty close and I’ve got four brothers, so you can imagine it gets pretty competitive and just being around family, I just love it.

It’s one it’s one of my top values. And it wasn’t until like two years ago that I started traveling outside of Perth and visiting the whole Western Australia that I was like, Wow! It wasn’t till I moved to Melbourne that I was more appreciative of Perth.

I’ve been here for a month, I think now it kind of sucks, I keep saying because the lockdown, but I’m never really doing anything. I think the only thing I really miss is one. I’m never here during winter, so I miss the sun too.


I miss going to a café and; and being able to sit down and eat. So, I learn that I’m still training as normal. And, and then tomorrow we have to wear masks. So that’s a bit different. It’s strange to see like, no, not much cars on the road and it’s just different vibe.


It’s just kind of feels off. And during these COVID times, I mean, it’s not like I wasn’t disappointed. There was no Olympics then and now. Competition and things aren’t as normal as they usually are. I think if; if COVID has taught us anything is to focus on the present.


And I’m kind of enjoying that right now, just focusing on the present. But at the same time, I do, you know, just blurred vision of where I want to be and what I want to do, but more focus on the present, because, I mean, the Olympics can happen and might not happen.


We’re not we’re not guaranteed that. And COVID has proved that. We’re not guaranteed anything. So, to put all of my energy into next year, it kind of makes no sense. I’m just starting to appreciate more today. Consciously self-awareness I think is really important, so it’s just about knowing yourself and the physical part.


If I feel too heavy and my body feels tired, just communicate with your coach and instead of being demotivated, then don’t want to go to training you. Coach can be like, Alright, let’s change the sessions up. So, you kind of freshen up, mentally.


I think that’s a lot of reflecting, reading and knowledge. Knowledge is key here. I think mental strength is just like physical strength because the more you know the better it is, you know, say, you know, I’m tired today, but I know I’m tired because of the sessions I’ve been doing or because a set of tests and been studying, doing a lot of focused and you’re not too disappointed. I think once you gain enough knowledge and experience, you do realize the struggle over all the hurdles and obstacles do make a big part of your life, but they don’t necessarily have to, you know, determine the rest of it.


You know, you can take them for inspiration. You can take them to change the world, they changed something. The Black Lives Matter was it was great to see so many conversations happening around that. I really enjoyed seeing that because it really just meant at the end of the day, that it’s finally people.


People have always had enough. But to be able to come and speak about it and try to find a solution was really cool to see. But also, around that time, you know, COVID and everything it does going to add to your mental health.


And that’s what I was hinting on one of my blogs. If it’s too much for you, it’s okay to sit back a bit because you can only try to contribute and help when you’re in the right mindset. And if you’re not in the right mindset, you should you should be okay to sit down and; and just try to learn more and observe and; and watch before you jump in. You know, so when you jump in, you’re the clear head, clear space. I love my identity and my background. And; and, you know, my mom is Sudanese.


My dad is South Sudanese. And I take a lot of pride in both of those, but I’m also as equally thankful to be to be here. And yeah, the more I get to travel and see the world through different lenses, the one thankful for who I am I am today, I don’t think people should be seen as a refugee or a migrant or something like that. It should. It’s almost like a trophy. Like it’s; it’s your identity is where you come from. And if people always want to if people want to be associated with bad things, then I mean, yes, there’s the bad things and there’s the bad struggles.


But who doesn’t go through bad struggles and; and what not? We have people in Australia that go through some terrible things too and I think, I think it’s better if we have a better conversation to get to know the person instead of the assumptions, you know, because I mean there’s so many articles or even in Wikipedia says Peter Bol’s came from a refugee camp, but I’ve actually never been in a refugee camp. But whoever wrote. And nothing I’m upset about. But whoever wrote that, if they could have had a better conversation instead of assumptions, they would they would get more value out of that.


I think they would have got a better story. I made an Olympic team within five years of starting, but what you don’t know is within those five years I’ve missed out on World Juniors, I missed out on the Commonwealth Games, I missed that World Championships.


So, if I didn’t have enough resilience the first time, I missed that, I would’ve never been back. And I was super competitive. I thought in my first year of athletics I was going to win a state championship or something like that.


So, it also takes time to be resilient. I think the only tip is really just follow your own path.


Thank you for listening. For more information about the Centre for Stories, head to our website, Centre for Stories dot com.

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