With National Trials just a few days away, 400mhurdles winner at the last championship in 2021, Timothy Emoghene, is already setting his eyes on winning it again while also qualifying for the World Championship and the Commonwealth Games. In this interview with CHARLES OGUNDIYA, Emoghene revealed his experience at his first Indoor Games early this year. Excerpts…
Early this year, you were part of Team Nigeria to the World Indoor where you competed in the 4x400m relay. Could you tell us about the experience?
It was a wonderful experience and that was actually my first indoor. Though we went with high hopes, all the same we give thanks to God. It was the first time and we have to go back home, prepare and get better and faster.
Your major event is 400m hurdles, how do you manage with 400m flat?
Well anybody who does the 400 hurdles can also do the 400 because it’s almost the same thing. We are jumping over obstacles and you have to be very fast in the 400 flats to be able to run in the 400 hurdles so it’s almost the same thing to me.
The team didn’t do too well at the Indoors, would you say lack of preparation affected the team?
I won’t say lack of preparation because we’ve been really training at home and the thing is that we don’t have any indoor court in Nigeria so it’s kind of different to us. It’s a different ball game entirely, the indoors and the outdoors. It was actually my first time and first time for most of us too. It was quite strange. If it was outdoors we would have known how to run it but it’s a different thing running indoors but all the same we give thanks to God.
Your performance at the National Trials last year was breathtaking, are we expecting such again this year?
It was wonderful but I was not surprised because I had really been training and when you are ready for something then you know that you are fully ready. I was happy that the results came in at a time when I really needed it the most and all thanks to God. I won’t let that get into my head, I still have to go back home and train harder and get faster so that I can get better. And I am already looking forward to this year’s event as everyone wants to be at the World Championship and the Commonwealth Games.
Before the last African Games in Rabat Morocco, you actually qualified during the trials but was removed for another athlete who didn’t come for the trials, although after an outcry, your name was returned, how did you feel then?
I felt really bad and it affected me mentally because I was down then. I had to go home and come back several times. I was asked to leave the camp and I knew that I merited the spot to be there, I won the trials and ran the standard which I was needed to run. I felt bad because I qualified legitimately and I was told to go home even though I knew that I had the top spot. Even in the camp, it was two days to go before I even knew that I was even traveling, people were submitting passports before then and even till now, I didn’t get some of the kits that they got because my name was out of the list. I still went there but I couldn’t do well because I had an injury even when I got to Morocco. It wasn’t really a fun trip for me but all thanks to God.
You said the situation affected your performance and also you had an injury, could you explain better?
Definitely yes because I wasn’t mentally okay and there is no way you can run if you are not mentally okay. I was feeling down and depressed, I wasn’t eating and they weren’t giving me allowances. I couldn’t train, I couldn’t perform properly and it really affected me.
Immediately after then, there was an outbreak of COVID-19 across the world which affected sporting activities. How did you cope and also return in 2021?
You have to have good preparation. I had a little injury but I got better and running fast and training harder. It was a few days to the festival when everyone heard about the COVID-19 and we had to go home and stay indoors, social distancing and all that stuff. It affected us but just because they said we shouldn’t train doesn’t mean that we won’t do some stuff at home to keep fit and in shape. When it was all off, I came out and performed well.
As an athlete, it’s all about training, resting and training again, if you are not training or competing, what do you always do?
I train, eat and play video games a lot and I sleep a lot. My schedule is not that busy because I barely go out, I’m mostly indoors. I don’t socialize a lot a n d I have the same routine everyday except sundays.
Earlier during the interview, you said you had problem competing indoors as we don’t have the facilities here, what will be your advice to the people in authority in sports?
You are right about that. They took us to Europe and the best that could have happened is to take people there and train them and get them exposed to what they are about to run on because it was really strange when I started running indoor. I felt back pain and my ankles hurt because the curve was very short unlike the outdoor one. We were just running off the curve and all that and if we were taught it would have been better because they say practice makes perfect. If we had better opportunities of going to run indoors, run leagues in Europe and prepare us for that particular race, it would have been better and it would have been good. The people we ran against were all trained indoors athletes, and it was a new thing to us but we thank God that we ran injury free and we were all safe.
World Championship and Commonwealth Games are just around the corner, how ready are you and your other teammates?
I won’t say it’s a difficult year because when you are prepared, you are prepared. I’m ready for whatever task may come my way. My coach has a programme for me and if he made m e run this fast and he can make me run faster with the right programme. I have a s t r o n g team and I’m going to come back faster.
You didn’t make it to the last Olympics, do you see yourself qualifying for the two championships?
Yes, definitely. That’s my goal and I’m working hard towards it. I want to start my season properly with a 48 because 49 is not something I’m looking forward to, I’m aiming higher. I’m sure the time will come when I will be at the world championship by God’s grace.
If you are given the opportunity to pick one, which one will it be?
I will pick all, I want all because I don’t want to sound like I’m greedy but if you are in a good form and you are in a good shape, you will want to go to every meet and run faster, to get better. I will say whatever championship is coming my way, I’m working towards it.
Recently we’ve been having issues of banned substance involving our athletes, what have you been doing personally to stay away with such controversy?
Well nothing good comes out of cheating, I make sure I’m very careful with whatever I take, be it a pill for headache, malaria or anything, I specifically ask questions. There was a time when I was sick and I went to the hospital, I had to explain to the doctor and he took some of the pills off. Sometimes we take things that we don’t even know about, some painkillers are not good for athletes and you may not know. You may think you are running free and fair and when you get home you would say ‘but I didn’t take such.’ You have to know whatever you take into your system, be it for headaches or malaria. You have to ask and confirm before you take any pill into your body, nobody will want to know that you had a headache, they will think that you just cheated.
What would you say is the difference between foreign- based athletes and those based at home in Nigeria?
I would say good programming, good coaching, good environment and definitely good training facilities. Even in the place where I train, we don’t have a good weight programme and we have to go far to get that. People outside the country are privileged to have such things and that is why when they go there, they excel much faster, they have everything they need, even good nutritionists and most of us at home train and eat the same thing everyday- garri and eba. To me I would say that food is one of the best supplements that an athlete needs. Eating good food and having a good nutritionist will help you as an athlete, not just training hard. Training is a good thing but if you don’t have a good nutritionist and good equipment then the training is just suffering for me. The foreign-based have whatever they need to train, good tracks and most times they take flights to go fir meets. It’s easier, unlike here where you will travel all day to get to where you are doing a meet and it will affect you as an athlete.