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Thursday 24 January 2019

'I gave it all I had,' says Rhasidat (15) of her golden run

Fifteen-year-old Rhasidat Adeleke, who won the 200m gold medal at the European Youth Championships, with her coach Johnny Fox at the Tallaght Athletics Club. Photo: Frank McGrath
Fifteen-year-old Rhasidat Adeleke, who won the 200m gold medal at the European Youth Championships, with her coach Johnny Fox at the Tallaght Athletics Club. Photo: Frank McGrath

Alan O'Keeffe

It was another golden moment in Irish sport. At a sports ground in Hungary, a 15-year-old girl from Tallaght challenged the cream of Europe's under-18 runners in the 200m race and beat them all.

Rhasidat Adeleke is now back in Dublin after winning the gold medal for Ireland at the European U18 Championships in Gyor on July 8 and then going on to compete in the U20 World Championship in Tampere in Finland. There Rhasidat was part of the 4x100m relay team which won the semi-final. However, she suffered a hamstring injury and had to pull out of the final, in which Ireland took silver.

"I gave it all I had," said Rhasidat of her gold medal-winning race. She has amazed sports fans that someone so young could triumph over older and more experienced international athletes.

Her mother, Ade, was standing near the finish line and she wept tears of joy. Ade and her husband Prince moved to Ireland from Nigeria 20 years ago. Their daughter dreams of competing in the Olympics for Ireland.

At the same event, Irish running prodigy Sarah Healy (17) won gold medals in the 1,500m and 3,000m and the legendary Sonia O'Sullivan's daughter Sophie (16) won silver in the 800m.

Rhasidat's mother, sister Latifah (18) and brother Abdullahi (8) were among the spectators on that historic day in Hungary.

"When I came off the bend, I couldn't see anyone on either side of me. I felt I was winning. I had to make sure I didn't tighten up so I stayed relaxed and gave it all I had on the home straight," she said.

"I was so surprised. I really didn't expect it. Watching Eurosport later, I could hear myself saying 'Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.' They played the national anthem and it was such a proud moment," she said.

Her mother, who works for An Post in Dublin, said: "Someone was telling me 'congratulations, she won it' and I burst into tears.

Rhasidat joined Tallaght Athletics Club while still a pupil of St Mark's primary school. At Presentation College, Terenure, she became captain of the under-16 basketball team at 14 and led the team to league success.

She was 14 when she represented Ireland for the first time at an under-17 international athletics event last year and won silver in the 200m.

Two months ago, aged 15, she raced against under-20 international athletes in Belgium and won a silver medal.

She paid tribute to her coach Johnny Fox at Tallaght Athletics Club. "He knows when I need to be at my fastest. He plans my whole year and what competitions I'll be doing. He knows which races are important, when I need to be at my peak," she said.

She is grateful, too, to her physiotherapist Stuart McQuade in Tallaght for all his treatments.

She also trains in the high performance gym in Athletics Ireland in Abbotstown, Dublin. Jacqui Freyne, performance development manager at Athletics Ireland, said: "Rhasidat is obviously naturally talented but has a steely determination and a good work ethic too.

"She has a mature, confident approach to her planning and competitions that belies her young years. She has a very fast, natural cadence and as yet has had very little technical or biomechanical input. A very exciting prospect for the future," said Freyne.

"I enjoy running so much," said Rhasidat. "The pressure can be great but I handle pressure really well. Next year, I hope to stay in shape and run faster. Much faster."

Sunday Independent

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