New Telegraph

February 24, 2024

I’d h av e lov e d to dance ‘Buga’ with my daughter – Tobi Amusan’s mum

How parents tried to force her to become a doctor

Rave of the moment, Tobi Amusan, never had it rosy while growing up in the quiet town of Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State, especially when it had to do with her passion for track and field. The 25-year-old started her career while still in the Secondary School, Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School at Ijebu-Ode, where she was discovered by Coach Solaja Ayodele. According to Tobi’s mother, being an athlete is a result of hard work and dedication on the part of Tobi herself with support from her coach and other people around her.

Mrs. Amusan said she would have loved to be right there at the stadium during the moment of glory of her daughter, dancing to the tune of the popular song by Kizz Daniel and Tekno, Buga (Lo Lo Lo). While celebrating, one of the fans by the track side decided to play the song which caught the attention of the new World Champion and record holder in the women 100m hurdles. The mother also explained the reasons she had to encourage her to take to track and field as against the father’s disposition to her decision.

She added that it was not that the father didn’t want her to combine education with sport, but because of the attitude of the country to such. “I was very happy that she was able to achieve what I couldn’t achieve in athletics and when she achieved that great feat, I was so proud as a mother,” she said. “I would have love to be there with her in Oregon dancing ‘Buga’ together, I couldn’t believe it at the start and I have to thank God Almighty for helping her to achieve such a great feat. “It is only God that knows everything. I was also an athlete, I was a sprinter and that was one of the reasons I was encouraging her at the time.

“As a sport woman, I decided to encourage her because I noticed her interest in it, I had to support her, it is not that the father was against her, but because she said she wanted to be a doctor. “He really wanted her to concentrate on achieving her dream of becoming a medical doctor and we all know how difficult it is for Nigerians to combine those two: being an athlete and also studying to become a doctor; that was why the father said she must face her studies.”

On why she dropped out of athletics as she was a sprinter when she started, Mrs. Amusan added that the country doesn’t encourage student-athletes as against what is obtained in Europe and America. She said: “I dropped out of the sport because I had no support and needed to do something else to put food on my table.

“When I was an athlete, it was only my brother and my coach, Mr. Makanjunola, that were taking care of me; so at a time my mother said she couldn’t continue to allow me run or doing such a stressful job that, at the time, didn’t look promising. “That was how I went back to school, and to God be the glory, I was still combining the two to a certain level before I stopped athletics.” The newly-crowned World Champion and the first Nigerian dead or alive to achieved such feat on two fronts: World Championship and World Record holder had to scaled through hurdles of life to get to where she is at the moment. She started with 100m and 200m flat and that was where she won her first medal at the First African Youth Athletic Championship in Warri, Delta State, in 2013.

Tobi won silver in the 200m at the same championship that produced the bulk of the athletes making waves for Nigeria at the moment, the likes of Ese Brume and Divine Oduduru. Before then, she had been winning medals for her school in Ijebu Ode before coming to the consciousness of Nigerians. Amusan told the World Athletics when she was replaced as a member of Nigeria’s 4x100m relay team at the trials for the 2014 African Youth Games that she figured she had nothing to lose and entered the hurdles. That crucial decision changed everything for her as she went on to win silver at the African Youth Games in Botswana.

More to come after she made the trip to Addis Ababa for the African U-20 championships, a competition she almost missed before the intervention of the then Technical Director of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria, Navy Commodore Omatseye Nesiama (Rtd) and the head coach at their Sagamu camp, Seigha Porbeni, a former international also. At the time, Porbeni had to put his career on the line that Amusan will make the country proud in Ethiopia and with that, the TD approved her name and she didn’t disappoint as she won the U-20 100m gold. This reporter recalls how Porbeni cried with joy as he was justified with the performance of the athlete.

The performance in Ethiopia in 2015 was followed by a breakthrough victory at the All-African Games in Brazzaville, Congo. “It was one of the biggest milestones of my career; winning that championship set me up for who I am today,” Amusan had said. Goodluck Jonathan, the then President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, hosted the Nigerian contingent to the Championship to dinner, and that proved vital in toughening Amusan. “Back then I thought if by competing in track I’d get to meet the president all the time. I thought ‘if this is true, I’m going to take track seriously,” Amusan recalled in an interview. She made it to the 100m Hurdles semi-final at the 2016 Rio Olympics; came fourth at the World Athletics Champion-ships in 2019 in Doha, Qatar; was fourth again at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo before shattering the world record in 2022 in Oregon, United States.

There is a saying that no one beats a man on a mission, and that summarises the determination of Tobi Amusan, with the full name Oluwatobiloba translating to ‘God is a great King’. The 25-year-old on November 2016 wrote on Twitter “Unknown now, but I will be UNFORGETTABLE … I will Persist until I SUCCEED ….” And just a year later in 2017, she said in an interview with Making of Champion that: “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…” a record she broke on the same track with the American.

In 2020, Amusan also wrote on Twitter, “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 practiced hard to trust myself and translate that aggressiveness onto the track.” Just few hours before the moment of history at the Adidas Room in Oregon, Amusan wrote on the board “Incoming World Record Holder & World Champion”. Speaking after the record, Amusan said: “I came in with a mindset of you know of 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. “Amazing! I am elated. It’s been a journey, and am thankful to God for keeping me healthy. I am more thankful because to come out here with a win and a world record is crazy.

“The field was hot, and the goal was to execute and make it to the final, and seeing the world record was like yes but I had to keep my composure for the final and I think I handled that pretty good, all thanks to God. “It has not sunk in yet, maybe the magnitude of what just happened will hit me later; I go out there and put 100% in every championship and it’s just never enough. Every time it’s a fourth-place finish.

“Then this time my 100% is not only a gold medal but a world record. Trust-ing myself just made everything easier.” On her Facebook page during the week, Tobi, currently in the United Kingdom, for the ongoing Commonwealth Games, also praised her coach, who she referred to as her second mum. “Y’all should meet my lovely coach and second mum, Coach Lacena Golding Clarke. She recruited me while I was back in Nigeria to University of Texas, El Paso when I was running 14.2secs and today is history for both of us. “She was also a world class hurdler during her active days; multiple finalist at the Olympics, World Championships and a Commonwealth Games Champion representing Jamaica. Thank you for everything coach.” On his own part, the grassroots coach that discovered Amusan, Solaja Ayodele, told our correspondent how he discovered the raw gem while still in Secondary School.

“I actually discovered Tobi Amusan at Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School at Ijebu-Ode when she was in the Junior Secondary (JS),” the coach known as Buka T said. “I trained her to represent Ogun State in the school sports but while in the Senior Secondary (SS), her father stopped her from sports to concentrate on her studies. “But she would sometimes sneak to training until she finally stopped coming to training while in SS2. “Months after her WAEC/GCE, she was allowed to resume training early 2012 following several appeals to her dad through her mum. “I then took her and six other athletes from Ijebu-Ode to Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, for three months for serious training. She and my other athletes represented Akwa Ibom at Eko 2012 National Sports Festival and this started her journey to stardom.”

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One Comment

  • Tobi, congratulations for the great feat – A World Champion and a world record. It is the greatest feat, to be at the apex of sport. I wish you the best of luck and may the almighty God bless and enrich you abundantly.

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