Olympian killed in Afghanistan

Private was a world-class runner
Pte. Mark Anthony Graham competed for Canada as part of the 4x400-metre relay team in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics

From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail

A world-class runner and former Olympian became the latest Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan when he was mistakenly hit by fire from an U.S. war plane on Monday.

“This is really sad news for his family and for the Olympic family as well,” said Tim Bethune, who used to train with and compete against Private Mark Anthony Graham, a former sprinter who competed for Canada as part of the 4x400-metre relay team in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

He described the soldier as a bright, determined hard worker.

“He was a very tough competitor. You had to be at your very best to beat him,” Mr. Bethune said.

“If anyone was not at their best, they’d suffer at the hands of Mark.”

The Jamaica-born athlete was based at CFB Petawawa, but grew up in Hamilton where he became a high-school track star. He went to the University of Nebraska on a track and field scholarship.

John Cannon, who was Pte. Graham’s track coach during the early 1990s, described Pte. Graham as a formidable athlete plagued by a series of injuries.

“He also had a lot of problems with his hamstring but he had other problems that kept him from reaching his potential,” said Mr. Cannon, a track coach for the Calgary International Track Club. “I think he went to the military to … represent his country as opposed to being a runner and represent his country that way.”

Mr. Graham, who died at age 33, won two silver medals at 400-metre events during the 1993 and 1994 Canadian Track and Field Championships. He was also offered a scholarship at the Ohio State University in 1993, where he studied for a year. But he quit athletics in 1994 and never returned to the track, Mr. Cannon said.

Pte. Graham was the oldest of three brothers, one of whom has also joined the military. He leaves behind a young daughter. His family quietly gathered in their small Hamilton bungalow to mourn Monday and asked for privacy.

“They’re in a fog and just weeping,” Rev. George Horton, of Hamilton’s Stewart Memorial Church, told the Canadian Press. Mr. Graham’s father has been a long-time parishioner and trustee at the church.

“They are still in shock.”

I just heard about this today. This hit me hard. I’ve known Mark since junior high. I was closer to his brother, but i remember playing basketball, track practise, and tossing the football around with Mark. He was a man-child, growing up. Great athelete. Will be missed.

It was an honour to be able to know such a great man and to compete against him back in the 90’s.
Mark was a pillar of strength.

Proud to be Canadian.

He was definitely a talented athlete and someone who was very competitive. I ran against him many times in high school, never beating him at Junior Nationals, Provincials. etc. R.I.P.