NEW YORK WEATHER

Enoch Adegoke is one of those fine athletes that Nigerian sports fans pin their hopes on for the future. Deji Obeyingbo, who writes twice a week for @runblogrun on Nigerian Athletics one time and Global/African Athletics another, did this wonderful piece on Enoch and some of the young potential stars in Nigerian sprints. We think that you will like this!

Enoch Adegoke: The man leading the next generation of Nigerian Sprinters

What are the ingredients that make for a good sprinter? Well, getting to the final of the men’s 100m at the Olympic Games, an event that crowns the fastest man in the world, is a good place to start. As was the case for Nigeria’s Enoch Adegoke in August when he lined up alongside eight other sprinters to jostle it out for the much-coveted crown.

That moment, though rather flitting, kept Adegoke in the record books as he became the first Nigerian to reach a men’s 100m final at the games since Davidson Ezenwa at the Atlanta 96′ games. Strangely, for a country that has produced the highest number of sub-10 sprinters (11) in Africa and the third in the World, behind the USA (62) and Jamaica (20), it felt shocking to most Nigerians that it took 25 years for a sprinter to get there.

enoch .jpegEnoch Adegoke, photo via You Tube

More strangely, a Nigerian had won Silver at the Olympics over the 100m. In 2004, Francis Obikwelu, who was born and brought up in Nigeria and represented the country in Junior Championships, won the medal for Portugal. Over the years, Nigerians had already gotten accustomed to seeing their athletes represent other countries at major championships. The underlying reasons for the switch in allegiance have already been stated in my first piece on “How the US collegiate system help churn out the best of Nigerian athletes”.

Adegoke is no fledgling when it comes to competing for the country at global competitions, although it came as a surprise to see him on the Olympic Stage to most Nigerians that have not been following the sport. Regardless, his story is one of hard work, diligence and perseverance despite the prevailing circumstances that hinders Nigerian sports men based in the country from reaching their peak.

Most observers began to take note of his immense talent when, at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, he reached the final of the men’s 100m having clocked a new Personal Best of 10.19 in the heats. Being tutored under the guidance of Coach Ayokunle Odelusi at the Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria, Adegoke’s stock began to rise and although his times were still hovering around the 10.00s barrier, it was just a matter of time before he broke 10s.

Something special happened in 2019, a feat that reenacted the possibilities of what Adegoke could achieve in the nearest future. The geography graduate won 15 of 16 of his 100m races, with majority of them coming on home soil. Bar the loss to Usehoritse Itsekiri at the Nigerian Championships, he became the African Junior Champion after winning the men’s 100m in Abijan in 10.29s.

2021 was a watershed year for him and he duly delivered consistent performances that culminated with the Olympics games. Interestingly, he had not punched his ticket to Tokyo by the start of the year. It was a mission that he eventually accomplished when he clocked 10.00s to win the Nigerian Championships in June.

Prior to that, he continued his impeccable winning streak on home soil over the 100m. However, in March, his first real test came when he had to compete against some foreign runners at the 3rd Making of Champions Grand Prix. His major rival came in the for of Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala, who handed him defeat in the final, although they both clocked identical times (10.05s) over the distance.

Still in his early twenties, Adegoke is certainly one for the future. Before his surge to limelight on the global scene though, a couple of young sprinters in the last two years had showed glimpses of their potential on the world stage, but for injuries and lack of consistency, they world have been the cynosure of the sprinting world.

Divine Oduduru became a household name when he stormed to double victory over the 100m and 200m at the NCAA Championships in 2019 after clocking 9.86s and 19.73s. Since turning pro, he hasn’t been able to live up to such times as he has struggled for consistency over the last two years. Surely, the potential is there and if he can get through some personal issues and stay injury free, Oduduru has still got some good races in those legs of his.

Another athlete who had fine 2019, but has struggled for form since then is Raymond Ekevwo. That year saw him become the African Games Champion over the 100m when he set a new Personal Best of 9.96. That form ushered him into the World Championships in Doha where he got to the semifinal in the 100m. His 2021 season didn’t go as expected as he had very few races under his belt.

Like Adegoke, Itsekiri is one sprinter that proved his worth on the big stage, albeit for a short while. He was on the Nigerian Champion over the 100 and 200m in 2019 and looks the most likely candidate to get in on the sun-10 train soon.

However, there is a new wave of younger sprinters who, all things being equal, should go on to do great exploits for Nigeria in the coming years. One athlete leading that charge is the newly minted World U20 Champion in the 200m (20.21), Udodi Onwuzurike. Still 18 years Old, Dodi like his friends call him has a heart so big that he believes no mountain is insurmountable. His numbers while running for Michigan tells its own story.

In the last two months of his high school career, he ran incredible times of 20.78 (+1.7), 20.47 (-1.0), 20.13 (+2.3) and 20.21 (+0.5) seconds for 200 meters. He also added elite efforts of 10.23 (+1.6) and 10.43 (+0.3) for 100 meters, too. He has teamed up with Stanford over this fall and their director of track and field J.J Clark is in awe about his talent.

At the World U20 Championships in Nairobi in August, Nigeria fielded the two fastest sprinters over the 100m. Godson Brume (10.13) and Favour Ashe (10.17) are two athletes to have blossomed this year considering they both are still teenagers. Brume, the younger brother of Nigeria’s Long Jump Specialist Ese Brume was the overwhelming favourite for the title, but for a niggling injury which hampered his race in the final.

The same fate befell Ashe, who was arguably in the form of his life going into the championships. He had won the Junior trials in Nigeria, clocked a windy 10.07 in March and was hopeful. A back injury took its toll and he couldn’t make it past the first round. He surely could be one athlete that can hit the cauldron at the top.

Jerry Jakpa and Alaba Akintola are some of the other sprinters that can cut their teeth at the top for Nigeria. Overall, the future looks bright, and if one or two of these sprinters can perform consistently in the World stage in the coming years, they surely can put the country on the pedestal of global sprinting.

CHICAGO WEATHER

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