Tobi Amusan has become a world record holder and a world champion in the 100m hurdles, but she still remembers her father burning her running gear.
A fourth-placed finisher at both the 2019 World Athletics Championships and the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Nigerian’s persistence has finally seen her engrave her name into the track and field record books.
The 25-year-old ran a time of 12.12 seconds, shaving almost a tenth of a second off the previous world record, in the semi-finals of the World Championships in Oregon before going on to win gold in the final.
However, it always seemed as if the odds were stacked against her running career from the beginning.
“My parents are both teachers, they are strict disciplinarians,” Amusan disclosed.
“When you grow up in such a family, they feel you should focus on school. And being a female, they think you are going to go astray, lose focus and all of that.
“But because my mum saw what I didn’t see [in] myself, she felt she could give me a chance. And she kept telling me not to disappoint her.
“My mum would tell my dad I was going to church while I sneaked to practice or tell him I was going to a school debate while I went to an out-of-state competition. That’s where it all started.
“My dad got really mad one time when he found out [I was running]. He burnt all my training gear and told my mum that’s the last time he wanted to see me in a stadium.”
Fast forward several years, and tears of joy flowed freely as Amusan stood on the top step of the podium at Hayward Field on a historic day for Nigeria, which saw the country’s national anthem played at the World Athletics Championships for the first time ever.
“It has not sunk in yet, maybe the magnitude of what just happened will hit me later,” she said.
“I go out there and put 100% in every championship and it’s just never enough. Every time it’s a fourth-place finish.
“Then this time my 100% is not only a gold medal but a world record. Trusting myself just made everything easier. I’m thankful to the man above for keeping me healthy. When God says it’s your time, it’s your time.”
Her father may have doubted her, but Amusan has always had plenty of belief in her own ability.
Back in November 2016 she tweeted:
“Unknown now but soon I will be unforgettable, I will persist until I succeed.” That message has remained pinned to the top of her social media profile and provides a summary of her rise to glory in Eugene.
Yet her journey into athletics started as somewhat of an accident at Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School in Ogun state, Nigeria.
“I used to be on the soccer team, but I would be all over the place on the pitch,” Amusan said.
“My coach suggested I go try out on the track team and I became the fastest girl on the team, and that’s how I got on the school relay team.”
She went on to make the national squad for the 2013 Africa Youth Games in Nigeria, but she missed out on a place on the relay team and went on to win a bronze in the long jump instead.
Competing over hurdles was another unexpected switch in Amusan’s journey to stardom, and is where she would truly break through on the senior stage.
“The officials were always picking who they wanted in the relay team. Sometimes they would say I didn’t have the experience so they would pick whoever was their favourite,” she explained.
“It was a lot of pressure on a young athlete. I considered quitting. I really wanted to travel with the senior national team and some coaches told me to try the hurdles.”
She had to overcome doubts from officials in Nigerian athletics before picking up her first senior hurdles title at the African Games in Congo-Brazzaville in 2015.
“The typical Nigerian approach is to make you feel like you cannot make it,” she said.
“I wasn’t expected to win a medal at those Games. There were so many voices saying I couldn’t but I used that to show that I could, and that title changed my life.
“That’s how I got a scholarship to the United States. I can say that’s really when my athletics career began. I never dreamt of going to the United States. I just wanted to run fast and be one of the Nigerian greats.”
Since moving to attend the University of Texas, El Paso, Amusan has not looked back.
She won gold in the 100m hurdles at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, and later the same year took her first African Championships title on home soil in Asaba.
Yet at major global events, she would agonizingly miss out on medals, finishing fourth at the World Championships in Doha three years ago and then again in Tokyo last year.
“2019 was tough because I remember running the fastest time in the qualification rounds, around the same time in the semi-finals and the same time in the final,” she said.
“I ran so fast but wasn’t fast enough to get a medal. I was broken, I was devastated. That was one of the most horrible experiences.
“I moved on, and then came the Tokyo Olympics. Things just crumbled a month before when I strained my hamstring at practice.”
She has constant support from her mother, but her father has remained unfazed by her exploits.
“Honesty, he still doesn’t support me doing track,” she said.
“He just feels like there’s more to life than running around. Every time I call him when I’m at a competition he just says ‘Okay, do your best, God will help you’ and that’s it.”
The newly-minted world champion and record holder, who also picked up a cheque for $100,000 for her blistering showing in Oregon, will now defend her Commonwealth gold in Birmingham.
Given Amusan’s starting success, her father will surely embrace her achievements soon.
By: Lynne Wachira
.Wachira writes for BBC Sport.
S’Falcons Edge Lionesses, Await Banyana For Olympic Ticket
After a goalless first leg encounter in Cameroon in the third round qualifier for the women’s football event at the 2024 Olympic Games in France, the Super Falcons of Nigeria edged the Indomitable Lionesses by 1-0 aggregate score line to reach the final round of qualifiers.
The second leg was pivotal for the Super Falcons considering that their opponent’s stifled them in a goalless draw at Stade de la Reunification in Douala last Friday.
Competing on home ground on Monday, the Nigerian team started the match strongly and saw their efforts rewarded in the 14th minute when Esther Okoronkwo scored the opening goal, giving the hosts a 1-0 lead.
During the second half, the Nigerian team implemented several tactical adjustments aimed at consolidating their lead.
In the 91st minute, Cameroon’s Annie Enganemben was shown a straight red card and was subsequently sent off, as Nigeria held onto their lead to walk away 1-0 victors and progress to the final round of the Summer Olympics qualifiers after winning the tie 1-0 on aggregate.
The Super Falcons have their sights set on qualifying for their first Olympics since their last appearance in Beijing 2008.
Their win against Cameroon could pave the way for a highly anticipated matchup against African champions South Africa in the final round of qualifiers in April 2024.
The Super Falcons hold the distinction of being the most successful international women’s football team, boasting a record eleven Women’s Africa Cup of Nations titles. Their last triumph came in 2018 when they defeated Banyana Banyana in the final.
Furthermore, the team stands alone as the only women’s national team from the Confederation of African Football (Caf) to have reached the quarter-finals in both the Fifa Women’s World Cup and the Summer Olympics competitions.
The Super Falcons await the outcome of the match between South Africa and Tanzania, scheduled for yesterday, to determine their next opponent.
Banyana Banyana held a significant advantage following their 3-0 victory in the first leg.
Rivers Hoopers Sign American For Basketball Africa League
Rivers Hoopers have completed the signing of Will Perry for the 2024 Basketball Africa League.
Perry, who played for Ferroviario da Beira for two consecutive seasons, helped his team reach the quarter final of the 2023 BAL.
The American tied the BAL record for most points scored in a game and also set a record for most three-pointers made in a single game. He set the record when he scored 41 points and 8 assists including 9 three-pointers in Beira’s 109-97 win over SLAC at the 2023 BAL Nile Conference.
Perry was awarded the 2023 BAL sportsmanship award for his fairness and role played during the season.
The point guard averaged 17 points, 6.5 assists and 5.2 rebounds in the Basketball Africa League season three.
The 29 year old has previously played for CB Zamora of Spain, ADO Basquetebol SAD Ovarense (Portugal) and Akademiks Bulteks 99 Plovdiv (Bulgaria) before playing on the African continent.
He becomes the first major signing made by the reigning Nigeria Premier Basketball League champions as they prepare for their second appearance at the BAL.
Tennis: Coach Banks On Quadri For African Games
Nigeria’s table tennis coach, Segun Toriola, admits being nervous leading the Nigerian team to the forthcoming African Games in Ghana next month, but is counting on Aruna Quadri to maintain the country’s dominance in the sport when the competition begins, Tidesports source gathered.
Toriola who took over from Nosiru Bello last December, was without Quadri in his first major tournament at the World Table Tennis Championship in Busan, South Korea where Team Nigeria failed to record a win at the tournament.
Quadri had pulled out of the tournament ITTF World Table Tennis Championships due to food poisoning but has since recovered and is ready to feature at the African Games tournament according to Toriola.
“I’m in touch with him (Quadri),” Toriola said.
“I spoke with him. He is now okay and he is going to participate in the African Games. He is ready. And everybody in the team is happy about that. I’m in touch with him. I spoke to him. He is taking care of himself and so he is going to play. He is aiming for his first African Games gold medal.”
At the last edition of the African Games in Rabat, Morocco, Nigeria were ranked second after winning 10 medals (two gold, four silver and four bronze) and have finished among the top three in the last four editions of the competitions.
In men’s singles event in 2019, Olajide Omotayo won gold, Quadri Aruna silver while Toriola clinched bronze. Toriola and Omotayo won bronze in the men’s doubles event, just as Quadri Toriola and Omotayo won silver in the team event.
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