The True Athlete Project began working with Souleyman in January 2016. Pam Boteler, Dr. Michelle Cleere, and Sam Parfitt took Souley through a series of evaluations, chatting to him about his performance, his training and his life. The team then set about crafting a personalized program around Souley's specific needs and dreams and setup a mentoring relationship for him with David Brown, the world's fastest blind sprinter.
The ongoing training includes regular Skype calls, motivational morning video messages, and a holistic program of exercises, from small lifestyle changes to meditation and visualization routines, which help Souley excel through the demands of being a serious athlete. We are proud of the relationship we have nurtured with Souley and even prouder of his fantastic spirit, and the great things he is doing.
In April, Souley was awarded funding from Sport England and Sport Aid's "Back the Best" program, and he is now flourishing into an athlete who uses sport for a greater good than just his own performance, giving motivational talks to other young athletes.
The True Athlete Project's Pam Boteler says, "It’s exciting, and personally very rewarding, observing the immediate, positive impact on the lives of athletes we have the privilege to serve. The TAP Mentor Network is proving to be a powerful tool to expand the philosophy of being a 'true athlete'."
The team knew that, given Souley's physical challenges, he would benefit from an athlete who has experienced similar challenges. Enter David Brown. The world's fastest blind sprinter, with an amazing story of his own.
"Have you ever tried closing your eyes and navigating through your daily life? Well, that is what I do every day. I may not be able to see, but I still have a vision," Brown says.
January 19, 1994, fifteen-months-old, David was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease - a rare disease which causes swelling in the lymph nodes and can attack the inner organs. In his case, it affected his eyes, resulting in Glaucoma. Six-years-old and due to numerous eye surgeries, David's dream of being able to see 20/20 started slipping away. "I remember me being able to see one moment and then completely nothing the next. I was frustrated, confused, and angry; I was in complete denial."
Thirteen-years-old, his vision was confirmed. "The doctor told me that there was no help for my sight. No surgery or medicine could bring back what I had lost. I seriously felt like all hope was lost."
But when David moved to St.Louis to attend school, he was introduced to track, and was soon recognized for his amazing speed. He caught the eye of US Paralympic recruiters and enjoyed great success in local and then national track meets. He continued to impress with his progress, dedication, focus and work ethic, and, at age 18, earned his spot on the 2011 Para Pan American Team.
David's hard work paid off when he was named to the 2012 Paralympic team in London, where he broke the American Records in both the 100m and 200m sprints.
In 2013, at the World Championships, David finished fourth in the 200m and received two silver medals (one in the 400m and one in the 4x100m relay). All three races were American record times.
But David truly came to age in 2014, focusing more on speed for the 100m and 200m races. Coached by Brazilian middle distance legend Joaquim Cruz, David, together with his 100 and 200m guide Jerome Avery, became the first man in his class to go under 11 seconds when he ran 10.92 seconds at a meet that April in California, USA. On the same day as setting his 100m record, David also smashed the 200m record, finishing in 22.41.
Now, as well as training full-time, David dedicates time to mentor with The True Athlete Project. We are truly honored David is a part of the project. "The True Athlete Project's mentoring program is a great program for young and upcoming athletes, and I'm so happy to be a part of it. Me personally, I never really had any mentors when I was on the lower level. When I made it to development status, I was able to pick the mind of my coach and and studied other sprinters and applied their philosophies to mine. I love that the True Athlete Project gives upcoming athletes opportunities to learn from experienced ones." Visit David Brown's website and help support his journey: www.running4hisglory.com