My first name TuTangeni in my native Oshiwambo dialect means “Praise God” for this gift. In 2001 I was recruited from Namibia, Africa to Utah, USA on a NCAA Track & Field Scholarship. My first year as a student athlete in the States proved challenging, especially as English was my second language. I was very homesick, winter snow was like nothing I’ve ever experienced, I wasn’t running the times that I needed in track and academically I wasn’t getting the grades that I needed. I feared losing my scholarship.
During those challenging times I would call home and talk to my mom often. I would tell her how hard life was in America and how I wanted to come home. My mom said to me, “Tangeni, you are a gift to this world and the Lord has put you on this earth for a reason. You are stronger than you think! There’s nothing for you back here, be strong, work hard and don’t give up”. My mothers’ wise words inspired me to do exactly that – not give up.
I kept pushing forward, but the challenges continued on and off the track. Nothing was as devastating as when I lost my father. I received the news through a phone call in the middle of the night that he had died of a heart attack. I asked myself, “Why did he have to be taken so soon?” I wanted to go home but I was thousands of miles away! My heart ached knowing that I didn’t get to say goodbye to my dad. I wanted to give up on my track career, school, and life itself. But I knew that’s not what my dad would want for me. There was still more I had to accomplish.
I turned those setbacks and the loss of my father into motivation and came back even stronger. I met and married my amazing wife Jocelyn. I became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints. We earned a few WAC Championship titles as a team. I ran the 6th fastest time in school history when I qualified for nationals. I graduated with a 3.9 GPA in my master’s program. Just last year I became an American citizen! In the end, none of this would be achievable without perseverance and faith in the Lord Almighty. Life won’t always be what you envision it to be but believing in yourself and enduring until the end will help you achieve anything you set your mind to.