Tobe Amusan, Nigeria’s golden track and field athlete blossom to world suoerstar in a year where female sports personalities were the only people that gave Nigerians something to cheer about in the world of sport
In 2022, the talents of Oluwatobiloba Ayomide Amusan, a Nigerian tracks and field athlete, who had in the last two years been at the fringe of medal-winning positions in the Female 100m Hurdles event burst into the top echelon.
The year is ending for the 25-year-old graduate of the University of Texas, El Paso in the US with her biggest haul of medals, accolades and income in her six-year-old international senior career. During the year, Tobi won major races in the 100m hurdles and broke all continental, inter-continental and world records, including running her personal best records in the 100m, 200m and 100m hurdles.
In this year’s season Tobi won the 100m hurdles at the first Diamond League event in Paris; came second in the 100m hurdles at the Lausanne Diamond Race meet; won gold at the 2022 African Championships in Mauritius; won gold again in the 100m hurdles and the women’s 4 × 100 m relay at the 2022 Commonwealth games in Birmingham, UK; won gold at the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA and finished the season winning the 100m hurdles at the Zürich Diamond League final event, to retain her title.
On the record-breaking feats, she broke the African record for the 100m hurdles many times starting at the Paris Meet, and at the All Nigeria Championships, in Benin, Edo State; she broke the world record at the World Athletics Championships in Oregon, USA with a semi-final win with a time of 12.06 seconds; the Commonwealth Games record with a time of 12.30 seconds at the Birmingham Games and the Diamond League Meet record. At the Oregon meet she ran 12.06s (2.5 m/s wind assisted).
In the year her best personal records were achieved in 100 m: 11.14 at Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA; 200 m: 22.66 seconds at Albuquerque and 100 m hurdles: 12.12 seconds at the Oregon World Championship.
Tobi is the first Nigerian Athletics world champion and record holder. And she is also the first and only Nigerian to be crowned African, Commonwealth, and World champion in the same year.
She is in the run to be crowned the 2022 Women’s World Athlete of the Year. She was among the five finalists announced by the World Athletics for the crown to be announced on December 5 at the World Athletics Awards 2022 ceremony.
Also, in the year she was conferred with the Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) by President Muhammadu Buhari while she is in among the three Nigerians short-listed for the prestigious Leadership Newspaper Man of the Year Awards.
And these spectacular feats were possible because of some personal and organizational triumphs. Major of these was her strong beliefs in her ability and God, and a strategic plan to continue training with her coach and plan her races and competition during the year.
Since 2016, when Tobi left the shores of Nigeria to attend the University of Texas, El Paso on scholarship and became a fringe 100m hurdles runner, she has never left anybody in doubt about her ability and determination to be the world’s best in that event.
Just a few months in the USA, she wrote on her Twitter account very early on a November morning: “Unknown now, but 🔜 I will be UNFORGETTABLE … I will Persist until I SUCCEED ….”
And a year later, when she appeared in Making of Champions, she was not shy of stating her ambition and self-belief, as she said, “at this moment, Kendra [Harrison] owns the record and I don’t have any but she doesn’t have two heads. It will be good for me to run a PR or break the world record if she is not careful–just kidding…”
Not lacking in ambition and self-motivation, Tobi again wrote on Twitter in 2020 about her growing confidence.
“My coach taught me that when I walk into a room full of my rivals to look like I own the damn world record. She always reminds me that I’ve practised hard to trust myself and translate that aggressiveness onto the track,” she stated.
After her near-podium finish at the Tokyo Olympic Games last year, the Nigerian did a self-analysis that showed that she knew what she wanted and where she was going.
“Physically, I think I was ready, but mentally I wasn’t. I think my mentality let me down,” she wrote.
And at her interview with Track Side after breaking the World record, she said, “You know, it’s been, God. I came in with a mindset of you know relaxing and executing and not stressing the process and focusing on myself as my coach always told me and everything will play out and I am thankful to the man above as I did just that today.”
While she was struggling as an athlete, it was obvious Amusan never for once doubted her ability to be a world champion and this self-confidence and determination has propelled her to the top.
Another reason that propelled Tobi to the top was her coaching and management team. Since 2016 when she started training under Lacena Golding Clarke, the Jamaican three-time Olympian and the 2002 Commonwealth Games 100m hurdles champion, she had lowered her personal best from 13.10 to 12.12 seconds in the 100m hurdles. Tobi broke through the 13 seconds barrier with a time of 12.83s in 2016 at the El Paso UTEP Invitational as a freshman. That year, she was named C-USA Female Track Athlete of the Year, the second from her university since the University of Texas, El Paso joined C-USA. She achieved this feat by winning gold in both the 100 m hurdles and the 200 m, and a silver in the long jump at the C-USA Championships.
Early this year she and her management decided to take a $50,000 loan. The loan was to enable her adequately prepare for the 2022 Athletics season and the World Athletics Championships.
Amusan, who said that she was injury prone, explained that the loan was to enable her to choose races in the year, concentrate on the World Championship and avoid injury, while she stays in shape.
“There was so much I needed to do when it comes to my health as a professional athlete, and staying on top of my game required a lot of funding,” she told the media at the World Championship event.
The loan was like a gamble for her, but months down the line, this daring move paid off as she improved her timings, records and income. She earned $100,000 for breaking the world record in Oregon and $30,000 for retaining her Diamond League title.