- Sentiments, mistrust reign among athletes -Fasuba
Africa’s 100m record holder, Olusoji Fasuba, in a recent interview monitored by CHARLES OGUNDIYA, explains how missing out of the gold medal at the 2006 World Championships propelled him to the title two years later as he remained the only African to have achieved such feat. Excerpts…
You are the reigning Africa’s fastest man, how does this make you feel?
When I achieved that feat in 2006, I was so elated I didn’t know if I should cry or jump for joy. Now I still feel happy that I was able to achieve that.
The record still stands till now, are you surprised?
I surprised that the record still stands because we have the South African Akani Simbine running a lot of 100m races under 10 seconds and he has come close to breaking it on two occasions.
Tell us how you actually prepared for that race…
2006 was a year I will never forget. It didn’t start too good for me because I had hopes of winning the world indoors that year in Moscow but finished in the sixth position due to some technicalities.
Without working on my top end speed, I went to Melbourne for the Commonwealth Games and surprised myself with a silver medal in the 100m. I flew back to Nigeria happy but determined to work harder and three weeks before the African record, I did personal bests in the 80m, 120m and 150m time trials my coach set for me. Two days later I fell sick and was so unhappy because I knew I was ready to do something great.
My coach had to reduce my training and gave me more tempo runs. The day of the competition, (Golden League in Doha, Qatar) I remembered getting to the track and after I started my warm-up, I broke down crying telling my coach that I felt ready to do something great but my body didn’t feel like mine at all.
He didn’t panic and started giving me some different kinds of stretches. I normally run two 60m races before I go into the call room and after he timed my first 60m, he thought his stopwatch was faulty when he saw the time and the rest was history.
Running 9.85 seconds was undoubtedly one of your best moments in track and field. Which is your best, the record-setting feat in 2006 or the 60m World Indoor title feat which made you the first and only African to win the event?
For me, my best moment will be winning the first ever 60m gold at the World Championship as I would always be remembered as the first man to achieve that feat although I’m still the only man to have done it for Africa.
When you ran 6.49 seconds in 2007, did that give you the confidence to go for the world title in 2008?
I was ready to win that title in 2006 but due to some known technicalities, I knew I was robbed. So 2008, my coach (Perre Jean-Vazel) changed my training plan and ensured that no matter what, I would be getting it that year.
Can you explain “I knew I was robbed”?
The 2006 World Indoors took place in Moscow. Leonard Scott and I were the favourites tipped to win that competition that year as we both had done 6.51 seconds or so.
We both qualified for the final, and in the final, I was thrown in the outer lane while the Russian, Andrey Epishin, who had never beaten me in the 60m, was put close to Leonard Scott.
Before that race, I noticed his block was the only one that had a speaker. The rest was history as he got the silver medal. If I was closer to him (Leonard Scott), I would have had a fighting chance.
You are on record as the first Nigerian and African man to win three consecutive 100m gold medals in the history of the African Championship. Since that final win in 2008 in Addis Ababa, Nigeria has not won the event, what do you think is responsible for this?
Before I retired or gave up, I kept on lamenting on the fact that Nigeria was not focusing on the younger ones coming up and were only ready to focus on the athletes when they start winning, which to me spelled doom.
The male sprinters were not coming to either Europe or work on getting a scholarship to make themselves get better. They were comfortable sitting back at home then.
What did you do to stay healthy physically and mentally?
My mom being Jamaican played a big role in making sure my diet was good and I was able to cut out red meat from my diet. But my weakness was ice cream and cakes.
So, I can say most sprinters weren’t too focused on their diet per se. I however ensured my vitamins were up to date and I also ensured I read through the World Anti- Doping Agency prohibited list to ensure my supplements were clean.
Are your children involved in sports, especially track and field?
My parents gave me a free hand to choose what I wanted to do and I intend to give my kids that freedom. I will open them to a whole range of other sports for them to try as well, as I believe if you are fast (which I know my first born is) then your coordination will be good if managed properly I don’t have any other employment as my job as a sailor is taxing at times, although I do intend to go into the medical line (preferably physiotherapy) when I’m done serving.
What role do you see yourself playing in the Athletic Federation of Nigeria?
I believe an advisory role is best suited for me and something I will like to do if given the chance as people who are close to me know that I can be blunt when it matters because I know the pain the athletes are going through.
What time do you honestly think you can run in 100m now?
If I could finish the 100m race now (why I doubt myself now is because I have gone into baking) I believe I can still do around 10.8 seconds. I say 10.8 seconds because when I do pop down the track, most of the kids still can’t beat me in a 40m race and I’m wearing my canvas.
Your mom is Jamaican, is it true that you’re in anyway related to Usian Bolt from your maternal side?
My mother is Jamaican and I am related to Don Quarrie who was an Olympic medalist in the 1970s and 1980s. So I won’t say directly to Bolt, although when I competed in the circuits, the Jamaicans were friendly to me.
You achieved Nigeria’s best finish (fourth) in the 100m at the World Championships, would you say you still regret not becoming the first Nigerian man to win individual medals at the World Championships indoors and outdoors?
I was happy when I came fourth that year and the reason was that my times in the circuit weren’t great that year and there were so many distractions.
Why did you quit the stage so early?
I believed I had achieved a lot with very little support and when I was an up-and-coming athlete, I believed that I didn’t need to wait for the country to support me and that if I got to the top, maybe the support would come and I would go as far as I knew I could.
That never happened and when I got injured in 2008, the officials didn’t even bother checking on me except the late Sunday Bada. That was when I lost faith.
In 2010, I realised that I had to start making plans for my family and I couldn’t let them (my kids) go through what I went through, so I decided to position myself where I would give my kids a better future so I joined the British Navy.
Tell us about your developmental stage in athletics?
When I got scouted by my first manager, thanks to Chief Tony Osheku, little did I know that my world was going to change. The day before my first indoor event, I panicked as then I didn’t even know what an indoor track looked like and I remembered sleeping before the race and I fell off the bed.
My roommate then told me that as soon as I fell, I sat down and started planning my race and when I was done, I went back to bed. I never remembered doing that but I won’t be surprised it’s true because my wife said before most races I talked in my sleep how was going to execute my race.
Nigerian athletes now barely run sub-10 seconds. What does this mean to the future of athletics?
Yes, I am very happy; I remember calling Divine Oduduru’s coach in Nigeria to ask him why he was still running in Nigeria as he should be out of there. I don’t know if it played a role in him going. But I am happy the guys are making the move and if this was my era, I would have tried going to the US instead of Europe.
I believe our relay winning days is closer than we think and we would start ruling Africa and in the 100m as well.
Could you please enlighten us on the role medical support played in your career
Medical support is one of the things many athletes take for granted. We only believe in going to see them when we have injuries that could have been prevented with advice from them. I remember when I got injured after Beijing 2008; I was so angry and disappointed as I knew I was in the shape of my life;
I made the mistake of just going home without getting proper treatment. I started training for the year 2009 and midway into the season I noticed I wasn’t doing so well; it wasn’t until my brother linked me up with a physio by the name Miss Ummukulthoum Bakare then that she made me realise I lost balance in my right ankle, that set me on the road to recovery.
Medical support is needed just as a coach is needed for any athlete to achieve their potential.
If made the Technical Director of the AFN, what would you bring to the table?
If I was the TD of the federation, I would first of all ensure I’m up to date with what is required of me and ensure I’m not found technically wanting in any areas. I would ensure we have a means to ensure our coaches are in tune with current happenings in the coaching world in terms of updating their coaching techniques.
I would also ensure a qualified technical department is up and running before trying to run forums for athletes to educate them on diets, training mentalities they should have and the negative effects banned substances will have on their career.
I would also ensure that the athletes are provided a fair playing field and ensure I’m not carrying a person that continued from Page 15 placed seventh and dropping someone that came second or so.
You married an athlete (Ngozi Nwokocha) who suddenly disappeared from the limelight despite doing well in the 400m, what really happened?
My wife got injured after the 2004 Athens Olympics. The meniscus in her right knee was damaged. She needed an operation which we weren’t comfortable with.
Regardless, she worked hard even with the pain and when we came for the trials, she got into the final, and if she placed sixth they would take five and if she placed fifth, they would take four and only the officials knew the reason for doing this.
So, when we decided to raise our family, we both decided not to look back.
There seems to be so much mistrust among athletes, especially the top ones. What’s responsible for this?
Athletics is an individual sport. The only time we talk of team is in the relays and from past history, when the team does not work together, we lose. I believe the classification system in terms of foreign-based and homebased is an outdated system that needs to be looked into.
Once that is looked into, I believe we will have the unity that the sport of athletics should have.
Do you look back and wish you continued running instead of joining the British Navy and how easy was that decision to dump athletics?
I left on my own terms even if it was before my time. When I see people running, I know I still have a few years left in me, but because of the love I still have for Nigeria, I can’t find myself running for Britain, neither will I want to come back and run for Nigeria. So early retirement was the only peace I could have for myself.
Would you want to share some of the ill treatments meted out to you that contributed to the decision to quit athletics?
My coach could not always get accreditation to events even though I had to pay his ticket to all my events with no support. I was always fighting to get my ticket refunds after paying my way to the national trials. I got injured, I was asked to send receipts only to be told by my informant that they had released money but it never got to me even after asking.
I remember speaking with Dr Adamu on funding me for the Olympics after I won the indoor event, the matter died even after making many trips at my own expense to Abuja. I knew my wife was victimised because of me.
When I won the Commonwealth Games silver, no one stayed with me to do the doping test even after they called the games village which resulted in me staying there till almost 2am. After the race, I was given a flag which I celebrated with, the three medalists were picked to have a dope test.
The officials of the other two were there and I was there by myself. My coach did not have the pass to come into the stadium then. I remembered Asafa Powell jokingly saying to me, “Where are your officials, seems they don’t like you”. I just smiled and said they were on their way. I waited for hours and had to tell the official that I couldn’t hold it in any longer as I have been there on my own and had drunk loads of water.
They informed me that they called the games village and they promised to send someone and no one ever turned up. I walked up to him about 1am that I was going to pee on myself as it was ridiculous that I couldn’t wait. They had no choice than to do it there with no official.
I was fuming when I got back as only my coach and Endurance Ojokolo were waiting for me. They calmed me down because I was going to wake everybody up as I was furious.