[ 6 ] Last place

The shot putter and the javelin thrower and all four members of the 4x400 relay team set off from Greenland for regional qualifiers, along with some hastily recruited co-competitors. Javelin and shot put were field events at Düsseldorf. The runners flew to the track qualifiers outside of Paris.

The extra recruits, along for the ride, were quickly eliminated in event after event. Our champions did not fare all that well either. Perhaps the star athletes were weighed down by a lack of international experience, a little morning sickness, or old age. Each performed admirably, each held his/her own, but none came close to their achievements at home.

The Summer Olympics came and went without any participants from Greenland. Meanwhile back home preparations had commenced for the September outdoor track + field exhibition. A respectable number of international athletes had agreed to participate, willing to help out Greenland’s embryonic Olympic yearnings, and curious about a land so far north.

On September 21st, as summer gave way to autumn, the one-day all-day exhibition would begin in the morning with field events and culminate in the 4x400 relay under the lights and under the stars, at midnight. Alberta attended the exhibition in Nuuk. She was particularly impressed with Arnaaluk. Sixth months into her pregnancy Arnaaluk no longer had difficulty competing in the morning. In front of an enthusiastic hometown crowd she felt relaxed and pumped up at the same time. Her first two tosses fell short. With the realization that this just might be her last international competition she put all her strength into her third attempt. With a grunt and a whoosh she heaved the javelin ten centimeters past the current world record distance. The crowd roared.

Twilight turned to darkness long before midnight. The sky took on a striking glow from the green and red phosphorescence of the aurora borealis, the northern lights. In the well-lit stadium the final event took shape. Spread out in lane one was a relay team from Jamaica. Lane two, Brazil. Lane three, the United States. Lane four, a friendly from Denmark — Sweden — Finland — Norway. Galileo and teammates took up positions in lane five. In lane six, Cuba.

The hometown crowd was on its feet. The crowd cheered lustily through the first leg and into the second, third, impressed by the Jamaican sprinters and encouraging their own. Galileo had some time to make up. He was already in full extension when he took the baton. Had there been hurdles he would have cleared them without adjusting his stride. He bolted through the turn into the straightaway and sprinted toward the tape, taking in the scene, exhilarated and satisfied. Galileo dashed across the finish line nearly a full second ahead of the existing world record. And he finished dead last. So had the boy in the shot put: 23 m 15 cm. Three centimeters beyond the world record. Last place.

And Arnaaluk in the javelin: 77 m 78 cm. Last.


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