Tobi Amusan’s journey to being the first Nigerian to win a World Championship gold medal

Tobi Amusan's journey to being the first Nigerian to win a World Championship gold medal

When it appeared that Nigeria might not bring home a medal from the 2022 World Championship in Oregon, Oluwatobiloba Ayomide “Tobi” Amusan, a sprinter and 100-meter hurdles specialist, had other ideas.

Tobi Amusan had broken the 100m hurdles’ world record twice in just over an hour at the just concluded World Athletics Championship in Oregon on Sunday.

Amusan won the gold by running a stunning 12:12 seconds in the semi-final to smash America Keni Harrison’s 12:20 seconds record set 6 years ago, before powering over the line at Hayward Field in 12.06sec in the final.

While most athletes aim to conserve their energy in the semi-final, the 25-year-old Amusan held nothing back at Hayward field, a day after she set the African record in the opening heats.

“It is a strong feeling. I wanted to get out and go,” she told reporters. “I did what I had to do. Looking forward to the finals.”

She shocked the crowd at Eugene in US state of Oregon, putting on the kind of superb performance usually reserved for prime time in the opening race of the Sunday evening schedule.

“Before the final, I just tried to stay calm and to do my best. I took a deep breath knowing that I have some goal to accomplish and it worked pretty good. I knew it was very fast but not this fast.” Amusa said after winning the race.

World Athletics official handle also tweeted, “After breaking the world record in the semis, Tobi Amusan storms to world 100m hurdles title in the final” 

Amusan got off to a scorching start and was smoothly into her stride after the first hurdle, building a clear lead and then pulling away ahead of Anderson and the fast-closing Camacho-Quinn.

Amusan, who was fourth at the Tokyo Olympics and the last world’s athletics championship in 2019 was awarded a bonus of $100,000 for setting the World Record even before the final gold medal race in Oregon, which was her primary objective for the evening.

She didn’t however get to this stage as she talents were discovered during her secondary school days at at Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School in Ijebu-Ode before proceeding to the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

Speaking with reporters in the mixed zone shortly after going into history books as first Nigerian to win a gold medal at the just concluded 2002 World Championship in Oregon, Tobi revealed she was playing football before she delved into athletics. And this all started while she was in secondary school.

“I used to be on the soccer team, but I would be all over the place on the pitch. 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 said.

What she termed as accident has now turned out to be a divine orchestration which has led her to be recognized across the world.

However, it wasn’t all smooth for her as her father out of love for education kicked against her going into sports.

“My parents are both teachers, they are strict disciplinarians. 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,” Amusan told BBC Sport Africa.

Given Amusan’s starting success, her father will surely embrace her achievements soon.

Tobi began her journey to international glory when she emerged as the silver medallist at the 2013 African Youth Championships in Warri. She missed out on a place on the relay team but went on to win a bronze in the long jump instead.

She also claimed gold in the 100 metres hurdles at the 2015 African Junior Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa

In 2015, while making her All-Africa Games debut as an 18-year-old, she won the gold medal in the 100 metres hurdles.

In 2016, as a freshman at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Amusan became the second athlete for the university to be named C-USA Female Track athlete of the Year since UTEP joined C-USA.

She was the gold medalist in both the 100 mH and the 200m. She also claimed a silver in the long jump at the C-USA Championships.

Amusan first broke the 13 s barrier in the hurdles with a time of 12.83 s at the El Paso UTEP Invitational. This eclipsed Kim Turner’s 100 mH UTEP record which had stood for 33 years.

In her first outdoor race of 2017, she ran a then lifetime best and UTEP record of 12.63 s in the 100 metres hurdles.

She was the C-USA champion in her specialist event and also the runner-up in the 200 metres.

At the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Amusan claimed the title ahead of Camacho-Quinn who was the champion the previous year. She did this in a personal record time of 12.57 s.

At the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, 2015 World Champion, Danielle Williams seemed to be the favourite to take the title in the absence of Sally Pearson. In the final, however, Amusan moved ahead of her competitors and won the race by a clear metre ahead of Williams.

Later in 2018, she won her first African Championships title in her specialist event at the Asaba African Championships. She also claimed a gold medal in the 4 x 100 m relay at the championships.

At the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, she ran a personal best of 12.48s during the 100 metre hurdles qualifying rounds. In the semi-finals the following day, she equalled this personal best before placing 4th a few hours later in the final with 12.49s.

She broke Glory Alozie’s 12.74-second record from the 1999 African Games in Johannesburg, South Africa.

She twice shattered the Games record in Rabat, Morocco, in 2019. She won her semifinal heat in 12.69 seconds before winning the gold medal at the African Games by clocking a hundredth of a second quicker in the final.

The 12.68 seconds came next. Alozie was the fastest Nigerian in the history of the quadrennial competition when she ran twice to earn a silver medal in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Amusan beat that time in 2021 in Tokyo with a time of 12.60 seconds, which earned her fourth place in the competition.

The 12.44 seconds Alozie ran at the Monaco Diamond League in 1998 were also consigned to history by the reigning Commonwealth Games champion.

The time was the quickest ever by a Nigerian in the history of the competition until September 2021, when Amusan ran 12.42 seconds to set a triple. At the time, it also served as the African record.

Amusan opened her 2022 season by winning the 2022 Diamond League event in Paris, where she set an African record by 0.01s with a time of 12.41s.

She won gold in the 100m hurdles at the 2022 African Championships in Mauritius, defending her title successfully with a time of 12.57s ( wind-aided). She also competed in the women’s 4×100m and won gold.

Later in 2022, she competed in a Diamond League meet, finishing second with a time of 12.60s, behind Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn.

Now, with the Commonwealth Games beginning on Thursday, Amusan will have the stage once again to rule the tracks and solidify her status as a world champion. 

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