ATHLETICS: Solomon Islands’ Rosefelo Siosi captures hearts of Hampden Park crowds

Solomon Island's Rosefelo Siosi
Solomon Island's Rosefelo Siosi

He was a teenager from the Solomon Islands whom just about no one inside Hampden Park had heard of before he took to the track in the 5,000 metres final at the Commonwealth Games, but Rosefelo Siosi left it a hero.

He also left some time after the 23 other athletes in the race had finished, but did so with a new national record to his name and the cheers of a packed crowd still ringing in his ears.

His homeland in Oceania is more than 9,000 miles away, but on Sunday he was an honorary Scot.

Lapped three times, the 17-year-old was roared on down the home straight and, arms and legs still manfully pumping, he crossed the line in 16 minutes 55.33 seconds.

He was more than one-and-a-half minutes behind the second-last finisher and more than three-and-a-half adrift of winner Caleb Mwangangi Ndiku with his dyed gold hair.

The Kenyan had won the title, but Siosi had won the crowd.

Siosi thanked the Scottish public for getting behind him and spurring him on when he felt like quitting.

“I feel so tired,” he said. “It was too cold for me. It was difficult to finish the race. I almost gave up, but the crowd were shouting, ‘Go! Go!’, so I had to finish the race.

“I’m privileged to compete against the fastest people in the world.

“The boys who train in Kenya train at altitude, whereas I just train at home - no coaches, just on my own. I was lucky to compete. They encouraged me really well.”

Siosi’s display will doubtless see him likened to other plucky competitors from down the years who finished way off the pace.

British ski jumper Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards came last in both the 70m and 90m events at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary - his best effort was more than 50m short of double gold medallist Matti Nyaken’s mark - but won acclaim for his attitude and perseverance and was greeted by 10,000 new fans on his return to Heathrow.