Tobi Amusan is the rave of the moment after she won the gold medal at the World Athletics Championships in the 100 m hurdles in Oregon on Sunday 24 July 2022. In the semi-finals, she crossed the finish line at 12.12 seconds taking a huge chunk of the previous 12.20 second set by Kendra ‘Keni’ Harrison.
Interestingly, Harrison’s world record was set at the London Müller Anniversary Games on July 22, 2016. That means Tobi Amusan broke the record two days after its sixth anniversary. Nigerians from all walks of life continue to pour out their admiration for the new world record holder.
Tobi Amusan could not contain her emotion as she stood on the podium to collect her gold medal. While the Nigerian anthem was sung, she was visibly seen soaking the sleeves of her tracksuit in her tears. In an interview after her lofty feat, she said,
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“I am confident in my abilities but to be honest, breaking the world record was outside my expectations. The goal has always been to perform well and get a win. So, breaking the world record is a bonus. I had it in me but seeing it on the screen after the semis was unbelievable.”
A flurry of congratulations for Tobi Amusan
The Nigerian president has since congratulated the new world record holder on her incredible feat. President Muhammadu Buhari in his congratulatory message said Amusan’s incredible performance has ‘brought excitement, joy, and hope to the nation’.
Another leading political figure and presidential hopeful, Peter Obi, also tweeted his congratulations to the Oregon stars. He went ahead to say that Nigeria had great talents which are often impeded by bad leadership. In his words, ‘appropriate leadership is key’ for these talents to rule the world.
The former world record holder also tweeted her congratulations to Tobi Amusan. According to Harrison, ‘the bar has been raised and it’s exciting’.
10 things you didn’t know about Tobi Amusan
While Amusan will always be remembered for breaking the world record, there are lots of interesting facts about her that many people don’t know. Apart from her exploits at the World Athletic Championship, her personality and character are endearing. Here, we uncover 10 facts about her that many don’t already know.
1. Tobi Amusan is a native of Ijebu Ode
Amusan was born in Ijebu Ode, a city in Ogun State in the southwestern part of Nigeria. By road, the city is 110 km northeast of Lagos State. It was the capital of the Ijebu Kingdom in the pre-colonial era. Ijebu Ode natives have the reputation of being entrepreneurs. Ikokore is a staple and cultural food of the natives.
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The name is a combination of the names of two prominent leaders Ajebu and Olode, the town’s foremost founders. The predominant ethnic group in the town is the Yorubas. Also, the town has a warm tropical climate.
2. Tobi Amusan completed her high school in her hometown
Call Tobi Amusan a homegrown athlete and you won’t be wrong. Her full name is Oluwatobiloba Amusan. She completed her high school at Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School, Ijebu Ode before furthering her studies at the University of Texas at El Paso.
3. She did not start as a sprinter
Seeing Tobi Amusan on the track, it may look as if she has been running all her life. However, that is really not the case. While in high school, she was part of the school’s soccer team. Her speed on the field was hard to miss and one of her teachers suggested that she should try the tracks. Recalling the incident according to a BBC report, she said,
“I was previously on the soccer team. However, I was usually all over the place. So, my coach advised that I give the track team a shot. It turned out that I was the fastest girl on the team. Eventually, I made it to the school relay team.”
4. Her father never wanted her to be an athlete
Tobi Amusan’s parents are both teachers and strict disciplinarians. Like most Nigerian parents, her father wanted her to focus on her education and get good grades. For him, involving in athletics would be a major distraction. Her mother, on the other hand, was more liberal.
Consequently, she would collude with her mother to secretly attend training sessions in the stadium. One day, her father discovered her secret and got really upset. In anger, he burnt all her training gears. Also, he dished out a stern warning to her mother that he never wanted to see her in the stadium.
5. She did not win any major title until she was 18
Although Tobi Amusan started sprinting in high school, she had to wait until 18 to win her first title. This was at the 2015 African Games in Congo-Brazzaville. Heading to that game, some of the officials at home didn’t give her a chance. Recalling what happened back then, she said,
“The typical Nigerian tactic is to make you believe you cannot make it. Nobody expected me to get a medal at those Games. There were so many negative voices telling me I couldn’t but they motivated me to show I could.”
Winning gold at that competition also earned her a scholarship to the United States. According to her, that trip to the United States was the beginning of her athletics career. Ever since, there is no stopping her.
6. Tobi Amusan predicted her championship win in 2016
If you visit Amusan’s official Twitter handle @Evaglobal01, the first post you will see is her pinned post from 8 November 2016. In that post, she said she may be unpopular at that moment but would soon be indispensable in history.
Fast-forward to 2022, those words have come true. Talk of a classical example of speaking it into existence and Tobi is right at the very top. The post has continued to circulate around different social media platforms and reviving the famous Bible passage “There is power in the tongue”.
7. She failed a lot before winning
How many fail cycles will make you quit your dream, one or two? Tobi Amusan surely had several continental wins under her belt, but the World Championships and Olympics had eluded her for a long time.
In 2016, she finished 5th at the World U20 Championships in Poland. The same year at the Olympic Games she finished a distant 11th in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The following year at the World Championships held in London, she finished 14th.
In 2019 and 2021 at the World Championships in Doha and the Olympic Games in Tokyo, she finished 4th in the 100 m hurdles. Rather than get discouraged, she put in more work and produced a masterclass performance that saw her not only clinch the gold medal but also break the world record.
8. She is signed to Adidas
Although Kendra Harrison’s world record was smashed by Amusan, the former world record holder was thankful that it was someone from the Adidas family that broke the record. Apparently, both ladies are signed under the sports kit manufacturing giant.
Perhaps, this explains why many critics said the Adidas Adizero she wore was the secret behind her win. She had since quelled that rumor explaining that the cleats were custom-made for her because she had patella fasciitis at the beginning of the season.
9. She nearly broke two world records in 24 hours
Tobi Amusan was surprised when she looked at the clock at the end of the race to see 12.12 seconds. That meant she had broken the world record. Less than 24 hours afterward, she beat that time again by finishing first at 12.06 seconds.
However, it was judged that she was wind-assisted since the wind was moving at +2.5 m/s. Therefore, it was not a legal world record. Nevertheless, that time will still stand as her personal best.
It is important to mention that her personal best heading into the competition was 12.57 seconds, a feat she achieved at the African Championships in Port Lois, Mauritius earlier in 2022.
10. She is $100,000 richer
Apart from the media attention and glorious title that comes with beating the world record, Tobi Amusan was also handed a cheque of $100,000 by the World Athletics Championships.
The story of Tobi Amusan is a clear manifestation of how far determination and hard work can take you. One of the key lessons to take away is the importance of getting up and dusting yourself After each failure. Also, this is a call on parents across the continent to give their children a chance to carve their own niche.
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Nevertheless, not everyone seemed happy that she broke the world record. For example, Michael Johnson a BBC Commentator and four-time Olympic gold medalist questioned the integrity of the clock. However, he received a barrage of backlash for his comments. He later tried to offer further clarification but the already angered fans were not buying it.