Saturday, August 16, 2008

Faster than a speeding bullet: Osayomi, our hope for Gold.

Faster than a speeding bullet, strong than a bolt of lightning…Damola Osayomi may not be Superman but she is certainly the fastest female sprinter in Africa. She has proved it again by winning the 100m heats at the Beijing 2008 Olympics at 11.13seconds with Debbie Ferguson from the Bahamas biting the dust behind her. The preliminaries to the semi finals continue at 8.45p.m Beijing time (1.45pm in Nigeria) on Saturday August 16, 2008, where her fate for the semi finals will be determined.

However, this isn’t Osayomi’s best, her 100m record is 11.08seconds just .95seconds behind America’s renowned Florence Griffith Joyner. The athletic stars have two things in common- America, where Osayomi is now studying Business Management at the University of South Carolina whilst enjoying Nike contracts, and a goal for Gold.

Osayomi,22, was discovered ten years ago by Samuel Akinyemi at Christ’s Girls School Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State. She played football at the time but Akinyemi gently steered her from the path of soccer to that of athletes. “He said I was a runner and not a footballer and he did everything to make it possible for me to convert from football to track and line and gradually began developing interest and I am glad I did.”

Since her conversion, Osayomi has won several medals. She won gold medals for the 100m and 200m games at the All Africa games in 2007, making her the only other African female athlete to accomplish this feat after Mary Onyali. Osayomi also won gold the African Championships in April 2008 for 100m and 400m by 1 races. Back home during the Mobil Olympic pre trial games in Abuja in July 2008, she won the track and field event where she made her 11.08second record for the 100m races and 22.74record for the 200m race.

However, her race to the top has met challenges. As the youngest member of the Nigerian athletic team, she experienced a peculiar age discrimination. During the pre Olympic trials in 2004, she came second at the 100m race behind Endurance Ojokolo yet she was not allowed to compete in the Athens Olympics because “ they said I was too young and inexperienced”. Damola was 18years old at the time. ‘I felt very bad and cheated but there was nothing I could do because the officials word was final, but I remained determined to do my best.”

Four years later, Damola is making her first appearance at an Olympics games and she is gunning for Gold. “I don’t train to come second, I train to win. I don’t underrate myself, I am going there with God on my side and I’m going to and I know that I will get a gold medal by the grace of God”

For Damola, her tool is her body, and not only does she train five days a week, she makes a careful diet plan and abides by her coach’s instructions as her guiding law.

“My diet is very lean. I eat more vegetables and fruits and I eat oatmeal. I try to stay away from oily food and too much carbohydrate. I eat chicken breasts and I do my best to eat early I don’t eat late at night. And I train every day except Sundays and Fridays and I weight myself everyday to ensure that I maintain my weight. ”

Damola is running the women’s 100m, 200m and 400m by 1 relay race with Franka Idogo, Gloria Kemasuode , Alimat Ismaila and Agnes Ozaguo. The team is camped alongside all other national teams around the world and often next to competing nationals. The teams eat, live and bond together yet Damola says when the trigger is pulled and she smells the gunpowder; it’s all about the finish line. “We are all friends but its only one person that will win; two people cannot be champions. So when we are at the tracks, I don’t know anybody again all I can see is the medal. But when we are at meals at the Olympic village we are friends again.”

Although Damola hasn’t had much training with her team, she is confident that they will shine at the games. Her only concern she says “is with our baton exchange. Because I only arrived on Sunday, we haven’t had a lot of practice together. But we are working on that now, and once that is perfected, watch out for us.”

Ebun Olatoye
Beijing China

This article is sponsored by Nagode Industries Limited.

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