By John Essien
Football has always been Nigeria’s favourite sport with a historic Olympic gold the pinnacle of its success, but the country’s global status in the track and field events has now taken a new height after Tobi Amusan became Nigeria’s first-ever gold winner at the World Athletics Championships on Sunday.
Amusan’s success comes barely a week after the Super Falcons agonizingly lost their continental crown in Morocco, forcing questions to be raised about the country’s preparation ahead of a sporting event.
Following Nigeria’s disappointing outing at the Women’s African Cup of Nations, sports enthusiasts in the country woke up on Monday to the news of Amusan making history as first the Nigerian athlete to mount the medal’s podium in a senior athletic championship event since 2000.
Amusan had first ran a blistering 12:12 seconds to shatter the world record of 12:20 seconds set by Kendra Harrison of US in the semi-finals.
She then followed up with a (+2.5) wind-assisted 12.06s in the final –another record breaking performance, initially announced as a world record, but was later ruled ineligible as the wind speed exceeded the legal limit.
Oregon 2022 was Amusan’s third appearance at the World Championships after making her debut in London in 2017 where she made the semi-finals before finishing 4th in the final in Doha in 2019. She also placed 4th at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Ijebu Ode born athlete has been in the form of her life in recent times breaking the African record three times in the space of 10 months and finally striking gold on the biggest of stages is the befitting way to end her wait for a world championship medal.
Born on the 23rd of April, 1997, in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, Amusan displayed tremendous athletic potential from an early age. Her breakthrough began in Warri when she came second and third in 100m and long jump event respectively at the African Youth Championships 2013, a competition for young African athlete aged 15 to 17.
Amusan’s parents, both teachers, had set the tone for her upbringing in Ijebu Ode, Nigeria, where she was raised in a strict environment. Amusan recalls that “her existence revolved around school, sleeping, eating, and reading books.” “It’s the same cycle I’ve been on my entire life.”
Her mother was very supportive of her athletic career, whereas her father preferred that she focus on academics, Amusan noted. “He limited my time at the stadium, but I used to sneak there because my mother will say I was at church!”
Her mother’s lies did pay off when Amusan qualified to participate for Nigeria in the African Youth Championships in 2013 and won silver in the 200m.
After completing her secondary education in Nigeria at Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School in Ijebu-Ode, Amusan relocated to USA for her undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).
And in 2015, while making her All-Africa Games debut as an eighteen year old, she won the gold medal in the 100 metres hurdles and in 2016, Amusan became the University of Texas second female track athlete to be named C-USA Female Track Athlete of the Year since the university joined C-USA.
At the Tokyo Olympics, Amusan finished fourth with a time of 12.60s. She later competed in the Zurich Diamond League event, which she won in 12.42s, becoming the first Nigerian to win a Diamond League trophy.
Being a champion requires you to make some hard sacrifices. No matter what will or has happened, your eyes must be set on the prize and Amusan’s case, has been bouquet of dedication, consistency and hard work which is evident in her old tweet that resurfaced online after her record-breaking win at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in the USA.
In the old tweet, Amusan had tweeted that though she is currently unknown, she’ll soon become unforgettable.
Her tweet made on November 8, 2016, read: “Unknown now, but soon I will be UNFORGETTABLE. I will Persist until I SUCCEED.”
Amusan’s emotions betrayed her when Nigeria’s national anthem was played during her Gold medal celebration as she shed tears of joy. She also got a prize money of $100,000.
Amusan had produced an astonishing world record in the semi-finals, smashing the previous best mark of 12.20 seconds held by American Kendra Harrison since 2016.
“The goal was to come out and to win this gold,” said Amusan.
“I believe in my abilities, but I was not expecting a world record at these championships. You know, the goal is always just to execute well and get the win. So the world record is a bonus.”