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Nigeria’s Oduduru is on a ‘Divine’ mission

Nigerian sprinter Divine Oduduru has been in the global news of recent, and for the right reasons too! The Delta State athlete has been making waves in the NCAA circuit since the beginning of the year and exactly a week ago, while competing for his school at the Texas Tech Open meet, Oduduru stormed to a Personal Best (PB) of 20.18s in only his second 200m race at an indoor meet!Not only is his time the fastest over the distance in the world this year, it is also a Nigerian Indoor Record as he eclipsed Francis Obikwelu’s former record of 20.46s set in 1999. That time propels Oduduru to 4th position on the all-time global rankings! Only Namibia’s Frankie Fredericks (19.92s, 1996) and USA’s duo of Wallace Spearmon (20.10s, 2005) and Christian Coleman (20.11s, 2017) have run faster.

A day before his impressive feat, Oduduru had clocked a PB of 6.58s in the 60m, setting a School Record in the process. As it stands, the Nigerian who is only a freshman at Texas Tech, currently holds three School Records: the men’s 60m and 200m indoor records, as well as the men’s 100m record. He is ranked 2nd in the 200m (outdoor), and going by his imperious form, it is only a matter of time before Andrew Hudson’s record of 20.43s succumbs to the superior speed of the Nigerian.

DIVINE GOLD – Oduduru Divine of Nigeria celebrating after winning the 200m boys final

A week before his amazing feat, Oduduru set a then PB of 20.49s in his first ever 200m indoor race to win the Texas Tech Track and Field Red Raider Invitational, smashing his school’s 20-year old record in the process. Going by how well he is running at the moment, one can’t help but feel that Oduduru has a lot more to unleash.

Divine Oduduru has definitely come a long way since 2013 when he first came into national and continental reckoning at the African Youth Athletics Championships hosted by Nigeria in Warri, storming to Gold medals in the 100m and 200m. Later that year, he went on to win the 200m at the African Junior Championships in Mauritius.

At the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships in Oregon, he raced to a wind-assisted time of 20.25s in the 200m to win a Silver medal – the fastest time by a Nigerian in about a decade. 2014 was also a defining moment in Oduduru’s career as he showed that he had come of age by upstaging his more experienced rivals to win the National title in the 200m.

In 2015, he was the standout athlete at the African U-20 Championships in Ethiopia where he grabbed three Gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m respectively. In that same year. Oduduru won his first continental medal as a senior athlete, picking the Silver medal in the 200m at the All-African Games in Brazzaville. He stood a good chance of doing same at the 2016 African Senior Championships in Durban but had to pull out of the event after suffering an injury in the heats.

That notwithstanding, 2016 turned out to be the highlight of Oduduru’s career as he reclaimed his national title and qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio. At the Games, Oduduru was drawn in the same heat as his mentor and Jamaican legend Usain Bolt. Despite his seeming inexperience, considering that he was competing at the Olympics for the first time, Oduduru made the most of running against Bolt by setting a PB of 20.34s. So impressed was the multiple World Record holder that he gave the Nigerian a hug after the race, tipping him for greater successes no doubt.

This is what he had to say about racing in the same heat as the legend: “Getting to the Olympics remains one of my most amazing experiences. Me running with Usain Bolt wanted to get me scared so I was like ‘I am not scared; I’m just going there to do what I know how to do best. This is the moment I have been waiting for.’ I’ve been looking up to him. Whenever I want to run when I go for competitions, I watch his videos and interviews just to keep myself motivated.”

Oduduru relocated to the US after the Olympics, having secured a track scholarship. However, due to a nagging injury, we did not see much of him in 2017 as he needed some time to recuperate and adjust to his new environment. But who would have imagined that he would bounce back with such dominance and vehemence?

Now that he has begun to manifest this level of greatness, there have been differing opinions as to the factors responsible for his stellar performance in recent times. Some are of the opinion that his relocation to the US where he now has access to great coaches and facilities, not forgetting good nutrition, are responsible for his brilliant form. However, others believe that his talent is only coming to bear now.

Roman philosopher Seneca once said: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. I believe this best captures Divine Oduduru’s current reality. If he remains injury-free and is able to extend this performance to the outdoors, we may just be looking at Nigeria’s second ever sub-20s runner, behind Francis Obikwelu who clocked the National Record of 19.84s at the 1999 World Championships in Spain. Oduduru has already broken Obikwelu’s 19-year old indoor record; who says he can’t replicate same outdoors?


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