Mother of Liberian Olympian at Rio 2016, Emmanuel Matadi Prouder, Despite Hardships

By Frederick Melo | fmelo@pioneerpress.com    

Florence Matadi, mother of Olympic runner Emmanuel Matadi who is competing for Liberia in the 2016 Summer Olympics, is overcoming many hardships Wednesday, August 11, 2016, including a house on 1325 Arkwright that burned down in 2013. Emmanuel had left the house that morning to make a college visit to Mankato. She said she texts and talks to Emmanuel every day. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)
Florence Matadi, mother of Olympic runner Emmanuel Matadi who is competing for Liberia in the 2016 Summer Olympics, is overcoming many hardships Wednesday, August 11, 2016, including a house on 1325 Arkwright that burned down in 2013. Emmanuel had left the house that morning to make a college visit to Mankato. She said she texts and talks to Emmanuel every day. (Pioneer Press: Jean Pieri)

Most Olympic athletes have proud, hopeful moms behind them, but Olympic sprinter Emmanuel Matadi’s mother is prouder and more hopeful than most. She’s had to hold her head up a little higher since an electrical fire burned through the family’s St. Paul residence in the summer of 2013, leaving her homeless.

Liberia's flagbearer Emmanuel Matadi leads his delegation during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, 2016. / AFP / PEDRO UGARTE (Photo credit should read PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images)
Liberia’s flagbearer Emmanuel Matadi leads his delegation during the opening ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 5, 2016. / AFP / PEDRO UGARTE (Photo credit should read PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images)

“I don’t know how to beg,” Florence Matadi said Thursday, chuckling as she stood outside her gutted home on Arkwright Street. She lists reasons she’s grateful, including her three grown kids and good health. “You know the man upstairs, he’s good all the time — Lord of Lords, King of Kings!”

Emmanuel Matadi of Johnson H.S. in St. Paul ran 250 meter repeats with parachutes  on the track behind his school on Monday, June 1, 2009, as he gets ready for the state meet.  (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)
Emmanuel Matadi of Johnson H.S. in St. Paul ran 250 meter repeats with parachutes on the track behind his school on Monday, June 1, 2009, as he gets ready for the state meet. (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)

Since the fire, she’s mostly lived in and out of her car, which she recently sold. A few weeks ago, after finding her dozing outside her boarded-up residence, three St. Paul police officers forced the 58-year-old grandmother from her vehicle with Tasers drawn, handcuffed her and put her in the back of a squad car for an hour, she said. One of them later apologized.

Matadi, a former house cleaner, declined Thursday to describe where she sleeps most nights, out of embarrassment. (“When you’re homeless,” she said, “you don’t want to stay in one place for long.”) She obtained an undergraduate degree in social work from St. Catherine University in 2014 but has yet to find a job. Aside from her East Side home — which is now an official registered vacant building with the city — she no longer owns much. What she does have is a heart full of hope that she can yet cobble enough money together to make it to Rio de Janeiro and see her son, representing his native Liberia, compete in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash — an improbable dream, considering that elimination trials begin Saturday. READ MORE OF THIS STORY

SOURCES: NewsNow/Twin Cities online

(Visited 394 times, 1 visits today)
About Cholo Brooks 13527 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.