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From Liberia to London: The Track Journey of Phobay Kutu-Akoi

2:23 PM, Aug. 03, 2012 EDT

Photo credit: Phobay Kutu-Akoi via Facebook / {}

Story by Malcolm Johnson

WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- "We walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7) is one of the most well-known Bible verses in the Christian faith.

Twenty-four-year-old  Phobay Kutu-Akoi says it's what has inspired her successful athletic career. The record books show she is the best track and field athlete in the history of John F. Kennedy High School (Maryland). She was named team captain in her junior year at St. John's University where she broke the school record in the 100-meter dash as a senior. Her continued training and religious faith carried her all the way to London for this year's Olympic games.

Though she attended high school in Maryland, Kutu-Akoi will be running for Liberia this year.

"I was born and raised in Liberia and moved to Maryland with my mother and sisters when I was twelve. I love my country and my culture and to be able to not only represent Liberia, but to be the flag bearer is an honor that I am forever grateful for," said Kutu-Akoi.

The stepping-stones taken in high school are imperative to cultivating any young athlete's career. Those steps at Kennedy played an immeasurable role in Kutu-Akoi's growth into a world-class athlete.

"I had an awesome time in high school as a Kennedy Cavalier. Coach Monroe is a huge part of why I am an Olympian today. He pushed me to work hard, to not give up and he saw no limits for me."

After graduating from St. John's in 2009, Kutu-Akoi moved to Texas. With her psychology degree in hand, she made the life-altering decision to put grad school on hold and pursue her dreams as a professional athlete.

"What I was sure of was that [if] I turned the television on in 2012 to watch other athletes compete in the Olympics, it [would] hurt more than anything, not because I didn't qualify, but because I didn't try. I just couldn't see myself living with that guilt and hurt so I told my family what my decision was, packed up all my clothes and headed down south. I also knew I was going down this path on faith."

Kutu-Akoi switched to an elite training group of all men. With no friends or family in Texas, aside from her brother, she didn't have to worry about distractions or a social life. She focused on training, with no guarantee that she would qualify by 2012. 

Olympian, by definition has numerous meanings, including "majestic in manor" and "one who is superior to all others." 

Kutu-Akoi, one of the most humble, levelheaded athletes you will come across would not be one to claim these superlatives. Rather than bask in the glory of her accomplishments, she acknowledges those who have stimulated her career and launched her to the position she now holds: 2012 Olympian. 

Friday, Kutu-Akoi will compete in the 100-meter dash, the race in which she holds the record at her alma mater. 

Is this the climax of Kutu-Akoi's young career? Yes. But it's far from the final chapter. The 2012 games will come to an end. Training won't. Her fearlessness won't. Kutu-Akoi's illustrious career is sure to bring her more success as she continues to do what she always has, "walk by faith, not by sight."



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