- Matthew Boling is the 18-year-old high-school sprinter whose impressive races have gone viral in recent weeks.
- As Boling’s star was rising, he was bestowed with the nickname “White Lightning” in some headlines, leading to a frustrating situation for the sprinter who wanted his races to speak for themselves.
- Olympic sprinter Ato Boldon says that while Boling’s race is part of the reason his story captured attention, it won’t define his career, as he has the stuff to make it as a pro.
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Matthew Boling is just 18 years old, but his impressive speed and viral highlight reel on the track has already made him a national sensation.
But according to Adam Kilgore at the Washington Post, one aspect of Boling’s jump to fame was particularly frustrating for the young athlete – being bestowed with the nickname “White Lightning.”
“His races went viral under headlines referring to him as ‘White Lightning,’ a new nickname he didn’t want and wishes would disappear,” Kilgore wrote. “Boling said his competitors never mention the fact he is white, that his race means nothing on the track. It’s Instagram commenters and reporters who keep bringing up his skin colour.”
According to Kilgore, while most of the attention Boling received was positive, some was negative and sometimes even “unthinkable.”
“There was somebody that left a message at Strake Jesuit saying he was the father of the Lord,” said his father Mark Boling, “and he commanded ‘White Lightning’ to go down and represent the white race.”
Asked his preferred nickname, Boling replied, “Matt.”
While the unwanted nickname is a frustrating issue for Boling at this point in his young career, Olympic sprinter Ato Boldon gave him a reason to look forward to the future later in the piece.
Boldon addressed the issue, saying that while Boling’s race is a part of the reason his story went viral, it will not define his career, as he’s got the talent to compete at the top level of the sport.
“Of course it’s going to get him extra attention, for the same reason Tiger Woods, when he showed up, got a lot of extra attention,” Boldon told Kilgore. “I get it. Anybody who ignores that is being disingenuous. For me, your skin colour might get you attention. That gets you to the party. The question is, can you dance? And this kid can dance … Once you see him, the colour of his skin is immediately going to be the last thing you think about.”
Boldon added that while Boling’s race might be a novelty in the context of American high-school track, once he decides to go pro, it won’t be such an issue, noting that “a fast white guy is not that big a deal” outside the United States.
Boling first went viral back in April when he became the first high schooler to break 10 seconds in a wind-assisted 100-meter dash. He then earned headlines again with an unbelievable final leg in his school’s 4×400 relay, erasing a 30-meter deficit to win the race for his school.
Days later, when New Orleans Saints wide receiver Ted Ginn put out an open challenge to race anyone for $US10,000, Boling’s simple reply of “Bet” entered the viral news cycle once again.
Boling will be attending Georgia in the fall and plans to work towards competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
You can read Kilgore’s entire piece on Boling’s meteoric rise here.
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