Lalu Zohri: Indonesia's 18-year-old 100m sprinter couldn't afford shoes, now he's going to Tokyo 2020

The boy who trained barefoot will race with the fastest men on the planet at Tokyo 2020.

A lot can change in 10.03 seconds.

Just ask Lalu Zohri.

At just 18 the Indonesian is already the fastest man in Southeast Asia, and was just 0.3 seconds away from beating Olympic gold medallist Justin Gatlin in Japan in May 2019.

Zohri came 3rd at the Golden Grand Prix Osaka on May 19, booking his ticket to Tokyo 2020, and setting a new national record.

And his 10.03 is a marked improvement on the young gun's headline grabbing 10.18 that won him the 100m race at the IAAF world U-20 championships in Tampere, Finland, in July 2018.

It was the first time an Indonesian athlete had won a medal in the 32-year history of the competition.

Life Changing

It's even more impressive when you realise where he comes from.

Zohri is the youngest of a family of four born on the eastern island of Lombok where they shared a wood and woven bamboo home.

He lost his mother and his father while still in elementary school, and was raised by his brothers and sisters.

The teenager had to borrow 400,000 Indonesian Rupiah (28US$) from his older sister to buy shoes to compete in Finland.

It might just be the best investment she's ever made.

“He asked me for money to buy new shoes before going to Jakarta to continue competing abroad. I could only give him what I had. I am very proud and he never demanded more,” his sister, Baiq Fazilah, told

Fazilah remembered her brother training barefoot.

The victory in Finland changed everything and suddenly he was meeting the president of Indonesia.

But this precocious sprinter is keeping his feet on the ground.

When the president ordered the family home to be rebuilt, Zohri requested it remain as a reminder of his tough childhood, so he would never forget where he comes from.

Following the two deadly earthquakes on Lombok, Zohri donated a large chunk of his recent winnings to repairing the water supply for destitute people on the island.

There's no doubting his talent, and the improvement between July 2018 and May 2019 is very impressive.

To go from 10.18 to 10.03 in 10 months of proper training promises much for Indonesia's rising sprint star.

Keep an eye on him, Zohri may be on his way to making more history at Tokyo 2020.

Triumphing against all the odds is becoming his hallmark.

Enjoyed this story? Share it with your friends!