Denison University All-American and 2012 graduate Makorobondo "Dee" Salukombo has qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after his ninth-place finish at the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon on May 29 in Ottawa, Ontario. Salukombo, who holds dual citizenship, will run for his native Democratic Republic of the Congo.
On Sunday, Salukombo placed ninth out of 2,729 runners with a time of 2:22.50 at the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. Since the marathon was an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Gold Label race, the top 10 finishers meet Olympic qualifying standards.
"I went into the race with a goal of running 2:19 or faster, but at 20 miles I was on pace but I knew I had to slow down in order to finish," Salukombo said. "I just focused on finishing as fast as I could from 20 miles in. Thankfully, I was able to stay in the ninth position until the end. About 20 minutes after the race I was told that the top 10 get the (Olympics) qualifier. I was relieved, thankful, happy, and felt at peace."
For Salukombo, a lifelong goal was met, but there is much more left to accomplish.
"The goal has been attained. I am going to Rio, but this is not just me," Salukombo said. "When I started Project Kirotshe at Denison in 2012 the goal was to start the Torrens Learning Center and the Lou Mitchell Running Camp. The Torrens Learning Center was inaugurated in January of 2013. My hope is to have the Lou Mitchell Running Camp going in the next year or two where we can focus on getting more runners and hopefully more Olympians."
The Torrens Learning Center was named in honor of Salukombo's cross country coach at Denison, Phil Torrens and the Lou Mitchell Running Club memorializes the late Lou Mitchell. A 1957 Denison graduate, Mitchell also befriended Salukombo during his undergraduate years in Granville.
"Denison has been a great part of me educationally and athletically and I want it to forever stay a part of me and extend to be a part of my village, Kirotshe. Wouldn't that be amazing to have Olympians say they train in Kirotshe at the Lou Mitchell Running Center?"
Already dividends of Salukombo's efforts are paying off. He will be joined in Rio by Project Kirotshe team member, Beatrice Kamuchanga, who will represent the D.R. Congo in the women's 5,000-meter run.
The men's marathon will take place on the final day of the 2016 Olympic Summer Games, Sunday, August 21.
Salukombo is the third Olympian from Denison, joining Herman Frazier and Darius Grigaliunas '00. Frazier began his career at Denison in 1973. He would go on to win the gold medal in the 4x400 meter relay at the Montreal Olympic Games in 1976. Grigaliunas was a swimmer at Denison who represented Lithuania at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
To learn more about Dee Salukombo's story and Project Kirotshe visit the links below:
- Project Kirotshe
- A Runner's Journey: From Congo to Cleveland by Rusty Miller, Associated Press (May 25, 2012)
- Salukombo ends career with All-American performance by DenisonBigRed.com (May 26, 2012)
- Track & Field Athlete Running to the Rescue by Rob Oller, Columbus Dispatch (May 13, 2012)
- Give to Salukombo's Go Fund Me campaign
- Take part in Dee's Cleveland Fundraiser in Cleveland on June 22