Triple Jumping, Hair Braids
and the Kindness of Strangers


This is the story of a triple jumper, a hair braid, the Canadian Olympic Trials and an act of kindness by a complete stranger.

(“Oh sure, another one of those,” you’re probably saying  🙂

Caroline is a track and field athlete, with the emphasis on field. While she’s an excellent middle distance runner, she’s an even better triple jumper.

Only 16 years old, Caroline lives in Espanola, a small, northern Ontario paper-processing town of 3000 souls, about an hour outside of the city of Sudbury. She attends her home-town high school, where she plays at least four sports . Because he can’t always get her to practice at her track club in neighboring Sudbury, Caroline’s dad built her a jumping runway and pit in their back yard. It’s an investment that gets a lot of use.

Caroline, her Dad and two coaches – one from her high school and the other from her track club (they work well together) – recently attended the Canadian Senior Track and Field Championships/Olympic Trials in Windsor, Ontario. Caroline had qualified by jumping a huge personal best in the triple jump to win the Junior category at the Ontario High School championships.

Never having competed at a national championship at any level, Caroline went in hoping to merely make the final.

On the day of her preliminary rounds, she and her small entourage were walking around Windsor, and passed a barbershop. Hoping to get a braid in her hair, she poked her head in and the proprietor, Gina, a wonderful woman of Somalian heritage, offered to do the job. Which she did, for five dollars! A great deal, and a nice braid.

Later that day, Caroline jumped in the preliminary rounds. She didn’t have a super day, but neither did her competitors and Caroline met her goal by qualifying for the finals two days later.  She looked tiny out there, competing against a number of women who towered over her, many in their mid-twenties.

The next day, she once again passed the barbershop, and dropped in to say hi and ask if Gina would be working on Sunday morning for another pre-meet braiding session.

Unfortunately, Gina said that Sunday the shop was closed and she wouldn’t be in. “But why do you need a braid on a Sunday morning?” Gina asked. When Caroline’s Dad explained she was in the Olympic Trials final, Gina incredibly offered to come in, early in the morning, on her day off.

And she was as good as her word. She put a braid in Caroline’s hair early on Sunday morning.

Later that day, Caroline surprised her older competitors by jumping a huge personal best and winning the bronze medal,. Her braid jumped with her, bouncing along on top of her head like a hairy good luck charm.

While she was far from the Olympic standard, it was a tremendous performance for a high school kid. But it left her coaches, both of whom are male, with a problem for future meets – one that is seldom covered in coaching manuals.

One of them will now have to learn how to braid hair!



Dick Moss, Editor,

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[tags]triple jumping,Olympic Trials[/tags]

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