Marco Arop is a Canadian track and field star. Born in Sudan and raised Canadian, Marco Arop, like fellow Canadian track star Sage Watson, studies in the United States. The only difference is, Marco goes to school at Mississippi State University. This year’s Pan American Games in Lima brought a big surprise for Marco Arop. It was a surprise Canada hardly saw coming too. Sure, it was unexpected, but it was more than either could have asked for. I mean, I wasn’t surprised. Just take a look at some of Marco Arop’s 2018 and 2019 accolades:
- Canadian National Record Holder (Indoor 800m) – 1:45.90
- Pan American Games Record Holder (Outdoor 800m) – 1:44.25
- MSU Freshman Record Holder (800m) – 1:45.25
- School Record Holder (Indoor 800m) – 1:45.90
- School Record Holder (Outdoor 800m) – 1:44.25
- School Record Holder (Outdoor 4x800m Relay) – 7:14.16
- 2018 Indoor Second-Team All-American (800m)
- 2018 Outdoor Second-Team All-SEC (800m)
- 2018 Outdoor NCAA Runner-Up (800m)
- 2018 Outdoor First-Team All-American (800m)
- 2018 Outdoor Athletics Canada Champion (800m)
- 2018 Outdoor NACAC Championships Silver Medalist (800m)
- 2018 USTFCCCA Accusplit Relay Award (4x800m)
- 2019 Indoor Second-Team All-SEC (800m)
- 2019 Indoor NCAA Runner-Up (800m)
- 2019 Indoor First-Team All-American (800m)
- 2019 Outdoor Second-Team All-SEC (800m)
- 2019 Pan American Games Gold Medalist (800m)
At the Pan Am Games, Marco Arop clocked 1:44.25 in the 800m. The previous record Pan Am time was 1:44.58, set by Cuba’s Yeimer Lopez in Rio de Janeiro in 2007. I had the pleasure of chatting with my friend Marco Arop recently about his recent gold medal. My favourite part of our discussion has to be when Marco talks about the grind required to be an Olympic level athlete. Now that Marco has won gold at the Pan Am Games, he looks to represent Canada at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. There are few stories as “goosebumpy” as Marco Arop’s. So enjoy!
Tell us all about yourself. What do you want the world to know about Marco Arop?
I’m a Canadian athlete from Sudan, who studies and competes at Mississippi State University. I’m currently majoring in Business information systems. I was born in Khartoum Sudan, my family immigrated to Canada 3 years later. I was raised and went to school in Edmonton, Alberta. I did some running in elementary and junior high but played basketball until my last year of high school. I returned to track in 2016 and since then I’ve earned a full-ride scholarship in the states, ran on multiple national teams, became a national champion, and won some international medals. That performance gave me a huge boost in my confidence going into World Championships.
Why do you go to school in the USA and not Canada?
One of the main reasons I decided to go to school in the states was the scholarship opportunity. Being able to study abroad and without the financial pressure made it an easy choice. Another reason I came to Mississippi State University was the level of competition I would get in the SEC and NCAA. I want to be the best athlete I can be and I to attain that goal I have to train and compete against the best.
What was it like winning the PanAm Gold medal recently? Bring us through all the feels pre- during and post-match to today.
It was a bit of a shock for me. I had a hamstring strain earlier in the season and wasn’t at my best for a while so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. I prepared to like it was any other race and was hoping for the best as always.
Leading up to the final I only had one thing in mind, that was to win the race. I had a race plan in mind and the time didn’t matter, I just had to stay in the right position and make a move when I was ready.
When I crossed the finish line first I was just ecstatic. To win a race like that against some amazing athletes was a huge accomplishment for me. I was really happy I could pull off a gold medal performance and hear the Canadian anthem played for the medal ceremony.
It’s an honour to represent the country that accepted and raised me. It’s the place I call home and I’m always proud to be a Canadian.
I am currently preparing for the IAAF World Championships in 2 weeks. After that, I will shift my focus to next years NCAA season and the Tokyo Olympics.
What goes into being an Olympic level athlete? Take us through the grind.
I believe constant focus and physical awareness are two things that I can personally attribute my success to.
Focus would be having a goal set in mind and limiting the distractions that keep you from reaching it. I train up to 6 days a week usually with 3 hard days. Even on the days, I don’t want to train, the focus keeps me mentally prepared at all times.
Physical awareness as in understanding your body, knowing when you’re overworking yourself, making sure you’re eating and resting properly.
“However, to be an Olympic level athlete you also need to have a support system.”
This includes coaches, mentors, therapist, friends, and family. I’m very fortunate to have a coach (Ron Thompson) who understands the sport really well and has experience at the highest level. I have support from Athletics Canada, Athletics Alberta (provincial), Voléo Athletics, and Mississippi State University. I would say most of my success is a result of the support I receive.