Olympic dreams: Augusta man prepares for Rio

Augusta man prepares to compete in the Olympics.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The countdown is on. We are now only 10 days away from the Summer Olympics being held in Rio. While many of us will be watching from our TV’s, one local man is going to be there front and center.

If you’ve ever run along the Augusta Canal, there’s a chance you’ve run past him…or him past you.

“The average pace for a marathon, that I did for my best marathon was 5 minutes 30 seconds per mile over 26.2 miles,” said Pardon Ndhlovu, Rio Olympian.

That’s what it takes to be an Olympian–a title that’s now carried by Augusta’s Pardon Ndhlovu. But it didn’t start in America–rather 10 years ago in Zimbabwe when he and his twin brother would watch their dad train with his fellow police officers.

“We just started going and sitting there and watching guys do their workouts around the track. And then we started joining them,” said Ndhlovu.

Shortly after, he gave his first half marathon a try.

“I beat some older guys in that race and at 18 years old and at that time I was like ‘maybe, maybe I can do this,'” said Ndhlovu.

And it was clear he could. He moved to the States where he got a full ride at the University of North Carolina Pembroke. He made all American his freshman year, and not long after, the seed was planted that he could become an Olympian.

“In my junior year in 2012, and I was just sitting down with my coach in his office. He said ‘it seems like there are two guys who made the Olympics for Zimbabwe in the marathon for 2012 for London.’ And he was like ‘I think you know, you could be the third guy.’  And I was like, ‘Well I’ve never run a marathon before,'” said Ndhlovu.

Several marathons later, he found himself qualifying for the Olympics at the 2015 Houston Marathon. His time was an incredible 2 hours 16 minutes 51 seconds.

“The standard at that point was 2:17 – so I was only 9 seconds in and I was the only one who hit the standard from Zimbabwe. So that was exciting, that was an exciting moment that I was like ‘oh, okay we are actually now going to Rio,'” said Ndhlovu.

Now a volunteer coach with Augusta University’s Cross Country, Track and Field Team, Pardon is focusing on the gold by training every day leading up to Rio.

“I think actually being there will be great knowing that I’m one of the best athletes in the world to actually do it,” said Ndhlovu.

He says while you must train hard, much of his running is mind over matter.

“It’s always mile 18 and you know at that point you’re just hoping for the best. Just ‘you know what, we can do this, just stay relaxed,'” said Ndhlovu.

And while he’ll enter the Olympic stadium representing Zimbabwe, he says he’s also representing America, the country that helped him nurture his talent–a talent that may soon earn him a gold medal.

“For somebody who didn’t think they would actually make the Olympics and now winning the gold medal. Glory always goes back to the Creator because He gave me the talent, so it would be, it would be unreal,” said Ndhlovu.

A free screening of the documentary, “The Extra Mile” featuring Pardon’s journey, will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday, August 4 at Augusta University’s Maxwell Theater.

Pardon’s race in Rio will be on Sunday, August 21, at 7:30 a.m. EDT.

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