The West

Law of jungle works on track
WA sprinter Mangar Makur Chuot is using his speed and wits for a different purpose nowadays. Picture: Michael Wilson/WA News

Running fast as a child meant the difference between life and death for Mangar Makur Chuot.

For the first nine years of his life growing up in Sudan, Perth's emerging track star had to rely on his speed and wits to protect both the herd and himself from wild animals.

He had already escaped the clutches of a lion and a cheetah at an age when a child's typical worries are making friends at school or learning their ABC.

"You've got to look after cattle, so we were taught how to get rid of these animals," he said.

"When I was about six or seven, bigger boys get to carry guns, but I couldn't do that. We were taught techniques for when these kinds of animals come.

"When a lion comes you climb up because they're not good climbers. If you get chased by an elephant, you do a sharp left turn because they're very heavy and they can't turn left quickly.

"When a cheetah comes, you run to a tree and get a branch and try to aim at the head because the head is very soft."

Now living in Girrawheen, Makur Chuot is putting his speed and wits to a different purpose.

The 200m sprinter entered last month's Australian Athletics Championships at Melbourne's Lakeside Stadium with a nagging hamstring injury.

The complaint meant the 23-year-old had to plan his race to perfection and, despite easing off down the home straight due to a muscle tear sustained in the race, still won in a time of 21.04sec.

It was the second fastest 200m time recorded at the track and made Makur Chuot the first national title holder ever produced by WA's culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) and indigenous development program led by coach Lindsay Bunn.

He credits his mother for making the breakthrough possible.

It was her decision to take her son and his seven siblings out of war-torn Sudan when he was nine.

"There was no school and it was hard," he said of his childhood home. "We moved to Kenya to a refugee camp, which wasn't a place to stay and call home.

"How we survive is Mum was very smart. She had a business, selling alcohol and making foods. That's how we managed to live a healthy life.

"Coming to a place where you can find something you can do and to focus on yourself and achieve the best out of yourself is a blessing."

Makur Chuot is still far from living on easy street. Bunn managed to scrape together enough money for the pair to fly to the national trials, but they had to sleep on the floor of a friend's house before the race.

He is also still trying to build muscle on a 74kg frame that is naturally tall, slim and without an ounce of body fat. Makur Chuot's immediate goal will be to fly to Asia where he is confident of clocking the 20.7sec time needed to qualify for this year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

"It's experience. It's the 200m and Usain Bolt will be there. There's that opportunity," he said.

The West Australian

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