Breathe: Message from the Morning Man by Kojo Yankson


Breathe: Message from the Morning Man
by Kojo Yankson

13th August 2015

Yesterday, I went to buy some fruit at the supermarket. At the till, I stood in a queue behind two ladies who were talking about a friend’s new baby, and due to the basic laws of physics, there was no way I could avoid eavesdropping. The short, overweight lady was briefing her taller, equally overweight friend with all the details.

“They say the baby has some eye problem. He’s completely blind”, the short one said.

“It’s sad o”, replied the tall one. “Some people’s lives are ruined from birth. Even before he gets the chance to do anything, his whole life is condemned to darkness”.

Eh? Is it even fair on the baby? To suffer such a huge blow from Day One?”, the short one rejoined rhetorically. “If the mother had known, she could have even aborted the pregnancy and saved everyone the stress”.

Now, I’m sure there are some of us who may see the logic in what these ladies were saying about their friend and her baby. It must be very difficult raising a child with disabilities in Ghana, where society never expects people with physical defects to amount to much. But how wrong we are to think that any disadvantage in life should rule out our chances of success.

Today, I want to tell you about a British girl called Laura. Laura was born in April 1992. She was born premature, with a collapsed lung. Now, let’s put things in perspective. A human can live without eyesight, but not without the ability to breathe. Somehow, the doctors managed to save her, and her mother took the fragile little bundle of joy home.

Growing up, Laura was sheltered from all rigorous activity because her parents were concerned about her overworking her lungs. That was until a new doctor advised that she take up a new sport. The theory was that this would actually strengthen her lung. Laura’s mother was sceptical, but she herself had taken up cycling to keep in shape, and Laura had seemed interested. It seemed the safest bet, since they would be doing it together. if anything went remotely wrong, she would be right there to save her fragile daughter. If only she had known…

In 2008, when Laura was only sixteen years old, she came third in the Junior Sprint cycling event at the British National Track Championships. The following year, she came second in the 500m TT, and won the Individual Pursuit as well as the Points Race. For those two events, young Laura was now the best cyclist in Britain. The following year, she and her team won the European Team Pursuit event. At age 18, “fragile” little Laura was the best in Europe. She doubled her achievements in 2011 by winning the Omnium event as well as the Team Pursuit at the European Track Championships.

Then came 2012. That was when I saw Laura for the first time. Cycling was one of the events I had desperately wanted tickets to watch, but I wasn’t so lucky. I ended up watching the races at home, but when Laura Trott won two gold medals for England, my entire street erupted with loud cheers and celebrations. The premature baby with the collapsed lung was now one of the greatest cyclists in the world.

My friends, what disadvantages did you start life with? Were you born poor? Are you an orphan? Did you go to a less endowed school? Did you get bad grades? What is your unfortunate situation? Do you think it gives you an excuse to fail? You may have been born under any manner of unfortunate circumstances, but if you think that gives you a reason not to go out there and be the best, then please remember Laura Trott. Today, she has an OBE from the Queen, for services to cycling. Roads, roundabouts training facilities, leisure centres and babies are being named after her. She is a role model to many, and a reminder to us all that there is no disadvantage in this world you can’t overcome.

Laura Trott was born without the ability to breathe. Today, she has conquered the world. And she is only 23 years old. What’s your excuse?

My name is Kojo Yankson, and with all the advantages God gave me, failure would be a crime.