Bola’s heart beat against his chest like a pestle pounding a mortar. He looked at the track ahead and knew that his destiny lay at the end. “It’s now or never,” he thought.
Every now and then, demoralizing thoughts like, “Are you sure you can make it? Do you stand a chance against these professional athletes? You’ve come so far; what if you fail now?” would come to mind, but he encouraged himself by saying: “You can do it. You’ve got this.”
With that, he anxiously waited for the sound of the whistle that would usher in his fate.
Bola always had a love for cycling and an unquenchable desire to ride. As a child, he would watch in awe as other kids sped by in their snazzy bicycles and wished he could join them. He never passed up an opportunity, and he always had one wish on every birthday. He repeatedly requested one thing from Santa each year, and when given a chance following any achievement, he always uttered the same request: “I want a bicycle.”
On his eighth birthday, he stood in the candle-lit cottage where he lived with his father, his eyes fixed on the modest piece of cake on his plate, wondering if he could bring himself to make the same request that hadn’t been fulfilled for years.
“What do you want for your birthday, Bola?” Mr. Jude, his dad, asked.
“I want…. I-I want ….. a bi…” He hesitated.
“A what?” asked his dad.
“A book,’ Bola replied reluctantly, feeling like he’d rather not make a request that was sure not to be granted.
“Is that really what you want?” Bola’s dad asked while giving him a knowing look. Bola responded with a slow affirmative node, while still wearing a disappointed look.
“Well,” Mr. Jude said, “I have something that you’ll prefer.”
Bola raised his head to look at his dad, who nodded toward the closet at the corner of their room. Bola slowly walked towards it, pulled the handle, and when it opened, he saw something that made him round-eyed with excitement.
There sat a red bicycle that was just his size. And what’s more, it was way cooler than any of the other bikes the kids on his street rode. He jumped for joy, shouted at the top of his voice., and took the bicycle out of the closet and headed toward the door.
“Bola, your meal,” Mr. Jude called. He ran toward the dining table, but instead of eating his cake, he hugged his father with all of his might and whispered, “Thanks, dad. This is the best gift you have ever given me.” Then, he ran outside with his bicycle; his hunger now vanished.
That month, Bola was a constant bundle of joy. He showed off his bicycle to everyone who cared to listen. The very thought of it brought joy to his heart. He rode it every chance he got, and in no time, he’d learned to cycle adeptly. He continued with this every day, and he was soon the fastest cyclist on his street.
That was nine years ago, and Bola’s bicycle eventually became old and unrepairable. Besides, he had outgrown its frame.
Now a senior in high school, Bola had other things to think about. The most prominent of his problems was the insufficiency of funds that dimmed his hopes of ever going to college.
One Tuesday evening, Mr. Jude called Bola into the sitting room and waved Bola to the seat facing him. Mr. Jude deliberately remained silent for a few seconds with his head bowed. He then lifted his head, fixed his eyes on Bola, and took a deep breath, which he released slowly as all elders did before making an important announcement.
“Bola, you’re a good kid. Ever since the death of your mother, you have been my major source of joy. You have not given me any reason to worry, and you have never ceased to make me proud. For that, I am grateful.”
He took another deep breath, shook his head from side to side with a somber look on his face, exhaled slowly, and continued, “I am not a rich man. Regrettably, I don’t have enough money for your tuition through college. I’ve been saving money, but what I have now is enough to get you a couple of books, and that’s all. I see many young people getting hooked on drugs and whatever else these days, and I don’t want you getting involved in such things. Many kids have it easy since their parents are rich and can afford fees and other desires. You’re not one of those kids. So, work harder. Opportunities always come; don’t miss them when they do. Be prepared so that we can help you achieve a great future that I know you’re destined for.”
Then, he cleared his throat and stood up, which was a sign that he was finished. He exited the room and left Bola to ponder over his words.
The next day, Bola borrowed a friend’s phone, which he used to search for the ‘opportunity’ his dad spoke about. After a few minutes of browsing, he came face-to-face with it. It was clear as day. A caption that read: “The Ultimate Cycling Contest.”
“If there’s any hope for my tertiary education, this is it,” he thought. However, there was a hindrance to his plan: he had no bicycle. So, he got a part-time job as a restaurant cleaner, which he dutifully worked for a month, after which he was able to buy himself a bicycle.
This infuriated his father in no small way. “I told you to work harder, and your idea of hard work is cycling all day? I thought you were saving for your education. You know, Bola, you surprise me.” With that, Mr. Jude stormed out of the house to get some air.
Bola Later explained to his dad that the bicycle was part of his plan of getting into college. “Well, Bola, I don’t really understand this plan of yours, but I trust you,” he responded. “I’m grateful that you had your future in mind when you bought this bicycle and not because you wanted to waste your time or impress a girl at school. Also, um, I’m sorry for the way I talked to you earlier,” apologized Mr. Jude.
“It’s okay,” Bola’s replied.
Bola practiced cycling early in the morning before getting ready for school, in the evening before going to bed, and anytime he could spare in between. He registered himself for the cycling contest, and after weeks of rigorous preparation, the much-anticipated day finally arrived. Bola and his fellow contestants were ushered to the starting line. The whistle sounded, and off went the cyclists, gunning down the track.
Bola rode with all his might until gradually, his strength began to wane. A tiny line of sweat ran down his forehead into his eyes as the sun illuminated the path before him and heated his body. His legs grew heavy, but as he contemplated giving up, his father’s words resounded in his ears: “Opportunities always come; don’t miss them.”
“I can do it. I can do it,” he kept saying to himself. With renewed determination, he zoomed past several of the cyclists ahead of him until the finish line came into sight. He quickly covered the last remaining distance between himself and the first-place cyclist ahead and passed them right at the finish line.
Bola was crowned the race’s winner, which earned him a monetary grant that was more than enough to pay for his college tuition. While he studied and even long after graduation, he continued earning his reputation as a world-renowned cyclist.