HE’S a sprinting prodigy with the talent to be a star of Scotland’s 2014 Commonwealth Games team and his sights set on beating Usain Bolt.
But while his peers hone their skills at Edinburgh’s Meadowbank Stadium, 15-year-old Morro Bajo finds himself waiting in Gambia while his coach desperately tries to raise enough money for his air fare back to the Capital.
One of Scotland’s top coaches, Bill Walker, who led Allan Wells to 100 metres Olympic gold in Moscow in 1980, has described the teenager as one of the best young runners he has ever seen, with more natural talent than Wells himself.
Morro is ranked fifth in Britain among under-16s and broke the Scottish 100m record for the age group when he was 14.
But the former Portobello resident had a troubled school life and had to return to Gambia to live with his father – who had already returned from Edinburgh – after being expelled from Drummond High School in December.
Stepmother Becky Grangeret said: “I think he just needed to get away and calm down.”
Sad to lose such a bright prospect from the team at Edinburgh Athletic Club, Mr Walker contacted Ms Grangeret, who still lives in Portobello, and with her help contacted Morro’s family to ask if he could return.
Family members were reluctant to allow him to return, but when Mr Walker wrote to them including a direct appeal from Scottish Athletics, they had a change of heart.
They have now agreed but cannot meet his air fare, so Mr Walker is hoping to raise the money for the bill of £500.
He plans to donate £100 from a £1000 award he recently received and is looking to raise the remainder from donations.
He said: “His family are quite happy for him to come back here but Gambian airlines won’t let him fly alone, so his aunt will have to fly out and accompany him. The family will have to pay for that, but they don’t have much money, so I’m now trying to raise funds for him.”
He said he had been stunned by the young runner’s potential when they first met during a training session at Meadowbank. He said: “Someone at the school phoned me up and said ‘I’ve got this boy, I think he could do well with athletics’.
“He came down and I thought ‘this boy is really talented’. He’d been in trouble at school a lot but at Meadowbank he was popular with everybody.
“He broke the Scottish record for under-16s 100 metres when he was 14. There was so much potential, it was still very raw.
“He’s full of bravado, too. He put on Usain Bolt’s website ‘One day I’m going to beat you’.”
Morro represented Scotland in the Celtic Games in Ireland last year and now there are hopes that he could return to Edinburgh in time to take part in the East District championships in May.
After that, Mr Walker hopes to help him win a place at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, which he said he’d be eligible for having lived in Scotland for almost six years.
The coach said: “There’s so much more to come. He’s one of the most talented athletes I’ve seen.”
Nigel Holl, chief executive of Scottish Athletics, who wrote the letter to Morro’s family, said: “There’s no doubt that Morro has fantastic potential as an athlete – potential that could see him compete at international level in the future. To develop that talent he needs to benefit from expert coaching and be in a position to make a level of commitment to the sport.
“We’d love to see him back in Edinburgh soon and it would be ideal if he was able to compete in the East District championships on May 12 and 13.”
Ms Grangeret said she was also keen to see the youngster settle back in the Capital, where she would arrange for him to stay with family members.
She said: “I think he’s got so much talent in athletics. He’s running in The Gambia in competition there and he’s been asked to join the national running team, but he wants to run for UK and Scotland.”
Although he won’t be able to return to school after his expulsion for repeated misbehaviour, his stepmother said: “I was down seeing the school this week and they do miss him. They didn’t like the behaviour, but they miss him. We’re looking at if we can get some sort of college course or sports and fitness training for him.
“He’s very friendly and outgoing, he’s got a great sense of humour and he’s actually a really kind boy.”
Mr Walker, who was recently awarded the Winning Scotland Foundation’s annual Winning Difference Award for more than 50 years of coaching athletes, said he thought the chance to fulfil his sporting potential could be the making of Morro.
He said: “I’ve had experience of how athletics can help kids because of the self-discipline you require. When they perform, they see their potential and think ‘If I can achieve that, I can achieve more’.” If you can donate, contact Mr Walker on 0131-556 5514.
‘Natural talent’ Morro has potential to better golden boy Allan Wells
BILL Walker never met Allan Wells as a teenager, so while he can’t compare the two sprinters’ teenage performances on the track directly, he said he believed Morro Bajo’s potential could exceed that of the 1980 Olympic gold medallist.
He said: “I only knew Allan at the latter end of his career but Morro’s got more natural talent. Allan worked hard to get where he went. He wasn’t a natural sprinter. He started off on long jump and then went to 200 metres and 100 metres.”
At 15, Morro’s current personal best for the 100m is 10.94 seconds, set at the Gambian all schools championship, compared with Wells’ best of 10.11 seconds. In the 200m, Morro has clocked 22.56 seconds, short of Wells’ 20.21 seconds.