Tobi Amusan: Symbol of Nigerian greatness | The Guardian Nigeria News

Regardless of the euphoria of seeing a Nigerian athlete break a world record in a prestigious international competition in which the country had never won a gold medal in 46 years, Nigerians and the country’s sports administrators have many lessons to be learned from the outstanding performance of 25-year-old Tobi Amusan at the World Championships in Athletics concluded in Oregon, USA.

For Nigerians, their country is big in many ramifications and can compete well with any other, globally. Hard work and persistence are the keys to getting the breaks. For the authorities, so much could have been done otherwise to put the country in a much better position in the world, but for gross negligence, incompetence and corruption. Even as the country celebrates Amusan, it is not too late to change attitudes, use the sport to redefine the country and reverse its declining status on the Responsible Nations Committee.

Every era has its defining moment for the men and women who shape history, for good or ill. At a time when Nigerians worry about a breakdown in security, which is reflected in increased killings and kidnappings, growing poverty, poor living conditions, as well as stagnating education and Other vital sectors, including the strike of university professors, which has kept Nigerian students at home for about six months, Oluwatobiloba Ayomide Amusan, gave his compatriots cause for hope. For those who don’t know, Amusan became on July 24, 2022, in Oregon, USA, the first woman, alive or dead, to complete the 100-meter hurdles in 12.12 seconds.

The world record would have been lower if the 12.06 seconds she clocked in the final in Oregon had not been discarded due to a strong headwind that affected the race. Amusan’s time, set in the semifinals at the Championships, broke the old record of 12.20 by 0.08 seconds. By comparison, the event’s previous four world records were broken by slimmer margins (0.01, 0.04, 0.01 and 0.03 seconds). Not since 1980 has the world record been broken by such a wide margin. For Amusan, the time also marked a personal best, beating his previous best (12.40) by 0.28 seconds.

As well as being Nigeria’s first gold medalist in the championship, Amusan’s mark of 12.12 seconds was the race’s first world record in 36 years. This is the fourth world record set in women’s hurdles. The first two world records were set in 1969, when Nigeria was still waging a civil war. Then, the women’s hurdles went from the 80 meters to the current 100 meters.

The world record is a feat always celebrated by Nigerians. The celebration cannot be otherwise, for a people who have been so traumatized by so many unfortunate and self-inflicted incidents, in a country with all the clues to be among the greatest in the world. The feat has also opened doors for Amusan, who in addition to the $100,000 she won in Oregon, is now the beautiful bride, courted by many brands.

As we celebrate Amusan, it is commonplace to remind the country that his achievement would not have been possible had the Ijebu Ode-born athlete remained in Nigeria; simply because of a rudderless sports administration, lack of essential training facilities and other distractions.

Discovered while running for Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School, Ijebu Ode, Amusan rose to national prominence in 2013 at the African Youth Championship hosted by Nigeria in Warri. A former soccer player who converted to athletics when her coaches noticed she was running faster than the ball, Amusan was only able to realize her potential when she moved to the United States to study at the University of Texas in El Paso. The school offered him world-class facilities, sponsorship opportunities and the ability to compete against the best racers from around the world.

In a country where college students have been home for about six months due to a teachers’ strike, the currency is plummeting, prices for goods and services are skyrocketing, the national power grid frequently crashes, while the oil thieves have a day on and off the beaten track, Amusan’s feat shows that Nigerians can excel at anything they set their minds to if given a little push by the government.

Amusan has experienced her own share of Nigeria’s ‘system failure’ on numerous occasions, including last year when she came to Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, for the Tokyo Olympics trials . On that chilly evening, Amusan posted what could have been a new African record of 12.3 seconds, but the clock let her down.

Reflecting on what happened in Yaba, Amusan wrote: “About 80 meters into the race, as I approached the home stretch, out of the corner of my eye, I couldn’t I couldn’t help noticing that the display clock stayed at zero all the time. I had never experienced this before… the clock was not working, was it happening during one of the biggest races of my career? … So it was pretty amazing to see all that effort come down to one important moment of just timing the final…”

After making history on Sunday night in Oregon, Amusan stepped onto the podium to receive her gold medal, and the Nigerian national anthem was played for the first time in world championship history. For Amusan, victory at Oregon 2022 is the result of hard work, perseverance and love for athletics. Despite all his past disappointments, Amusan set a goal, turned the corner and achieved his dream.

Three years ago, Amusan failed to make the podium at the World Championships in Athletics in Doha, Qatar. She also just missed the podium last year at the Tokyo Olympics. In athletics, hurdles are one of the most technical and difficult races. At one point, Amusan allegedly expressed his frustration to friends and considered quitting the sport altogether.

Here is a nation steeped in some of the most exceptional citizens with incredible world-class talent in sports and other disciplines. Despite lacking adequate preparation for matches, Amusan was able to show off his talents, winning laurels much to the astonishment of many Nigerians back home. It demonstrated that Nigeria is kept alive by the stubborn hope of the majority of its citizens that one day the bad times and atrocious rulers will pass.

There are many Amusans in Nigeria, but the challenge has always been the country’s inability to put in place a system that can nurture their talents and turn them into world-class athletes. Foremost among the challenges facing the Nigerian athlete is government apathy towards sport and a system that does not recognize excellence as it should.

In Nigeria, sport, which has become one of the most revenue-generating industries in the developed parts of the world, is still considered a recreational activity by the government. It receives the lowest amount from the national budget and most worrying is that the sector is the only one in Nigeria that the government appoints non-professionals as ministers.

Tobi Amusan can achieve greater height, just as others of his ilk can be discovered and elevated to stardom. But the ministry and the sports agencies must first provide the basics; while the government must guarantee a secure and peaceful environment. It would be unfortunate if Amusan’s achievement remained a flash in the pan rather than the start of a continuum of sporting excellence.

James V. Hayes