Weini Kelati’s Long Journey to America After Leaving Eritrea + Inspiring The Youth and Her Family Back Home

The CITIUS MAG Podcast

January 5, 2021

Weini Kelati is a two-time NCAA Division I champion and 13-time All American out of New Mexico who recently decided to forego the rest of her NCAA eligibility to turn professional and sign with Under Armour and train under the Dark Sky Distance team in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Weini has an incredible story that really takes off after she competed for her Eritrea at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore. She decided not to get on the plane back home and started a new life in America. You’ll hear the story of how that all came together, how she settled into life in Virginia and her hopes of competing for the United States at the 2021 U.S. Olympic Trials possibly. I think you’ll be blown away by some of the behind the scenes of her story.

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– “Yes, you might have talent or something gifted to you but it doesn’t come without hard work. All those people that you see at the top level and you say, ‘Oh those people are so lucky!’ They work hard for it. We have to know what they came through and what they have done in their lives. For me, yes I was talented in running maybe but I put all the work I wanted to do into running. I might not be perfect some days but I try my best…When you do something, it doesn’t come perfectly sometimes. You will fail a lot of the time, even more than you have accomplished. Failures can happen but you get up and keep going. That’s what I learned about running and school. I’m not perfect. I’m human just like you. I have failed so many times in my life and the next day I just get up and do something. I start building from the bottom again.”

– “My life was a lot of up and down. I never talked about this but I lost my dad in 2001. He was in the military. My dad was fighting to get freedom or save our country in a time where there was no hope. He didn’t know if he was going to survive or not. But he said, ‘Yes, we can do it. We can get freedom for our country.’ For me, it’s nothing compared with that….Growing up, my mom was a super strong woman. She would fail but say, ‘Don’t fear the failures. Just keep going.’ That’s what she taught me. When I came here, even when I fail a lot of the times, I realize, ‘This is going to pass’ or ‘I’m going to do something. If I fear or give up with the failures, what’s going to happen? I’m going to be the same person I was a long time ago. I have to build something. I have to do it a different way. These are the things that help me to keep going. The things that happened to me here or I used to do here were hard. But, I’ll say it’s nothing compared to what I had back home. These are the things that are going to help me to grow and to get stronger.”

– “Coming to college was the easiest part of my life. If I went back home and was on that plane, I don’t know. I might have survived or not. I might be living in poverty and still suffering with my family. But here being in college other people think it might be hard because it’s the first time they’re getting responsibility or getting away from their family. For me, college was the easiest part of my life and I enjoyed it so much.”

– “I was watching Meb Keflezighi when I got to the city and had access to the internet and TV. I said, ‘This is what I want to do.’ I came here and got a chance to stay here and also I have told everyone else that I’m going to run for the United States and you’re going to see me in that uniform.”

– “The first thing I would wish for is to see my mom. It’s been very hard to live in two different worlds and I haven’t seen her for a while. This would be a dream come true to bring her here or going to see her somewhere else…I want to see them have a good life and not the life that I had. I am lucky that my brothers are very understanding of what I do and they’re committed to what they do. It’s impossible to go to college back home but one of them is in college. I want to help them in life but it’s not only my family. I want to help the people who live in poverty and young women and men struggling with their lives. I can’t wait to give back to the community. Everyone needs help. If I had no help from the people around me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. We might not understand this because when you get something sometimes you forget what you have gone through. Small things give hope to the people who live in the dark. I want to inspire people and give back to young people who have big dreams. I want to support their dreams.”


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Chris Chavez

Chris Chavez launched CITIUS MAG in 2016 as a passion project while working full-time for Sports Illustrated. He covered the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and grew his humble blog into a multi-pronged media company. He completed all six World Marathon Majors and is an aspiring sub-five-minute miler.