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'It's probably a little blessing in disguise. Another year of development would mean the world'

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SPAR ambassador and Irish international athlete Rhasidat Adeleke: “If I do decide to go the US I’m not sure I would be able to begin this fall. My other option is to start in January which would be a pretty tough way to begin a new regime”. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

SPAR ambassador and Irish international athlete Rhasidat Adeleke: “If I do decide to go the US I’m not sure I would be able to begin this fall. My other option is to start in January which would be a pretty tough way to begin a new regime”. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

SPAR ambassador and Irish international athlete Rhasidat Adeleke: “If I do decide to go the US I’m not sure I would be able to begin this fall. My other option is to start in January which would be a pretty tough way to begin a new regime”. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

In ordinary times Rhasidat Adeleke would be counting the days to the start of her Leaving Certificate exam on June 3.

But the corridors of Presentation Community College in Terenure fell silent on March 12, the Leaving Certificate was cancelled earlier this month and there are tentative plans to postpone her debs until February.

It has been a surreal end to Adeleke's post-primary education. But once the lockdown is over the world is her oyster.

One of the country's most promising sprinters, a public football pitch in Tallaght has becoming her training base for the last three months.

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As her coach Daniel Kilgallon lives more than 5km away, he cannot supervise the sessions. But everything moves at a different pace since the shutdown.

She regrets the cancellation of the World Junior championships, which were scheduled for Kenya in July, far more than the Leaving Certificate.

"I was absolutely distraught. Initially they said it would be postponed and I had hoped it would take place in the time in the autumn.

"Kenya is a warm country and it's not like the weather would have been tragic in the autumn.

"But the fact that it's being cancelled is just so upsetting. I would have really enjoyed not just the competition, but the whole atmosphere, to be able to travel to Kenya because I heard their fans were some of the best fans in the world," explains Adeleke, who won double gold in the 100m and 200m at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Baku, Azerbaijan last July.

On the other hand, the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics until the summer of 2021 gives her an unexpected window of opportunity to become an Olympian at the tender age of 18.

Realistically, her best chance of competing in Tokyo is as a member of the women's sprinting squad. They secured a silver medal in the 4x100m final at the U-20 championships in Tampere in Finland in 2018.

"It's probably a little blessing is disguise. Our relay team is very young, so another year of development would mean the world. Our bodies develop, speed develops, we mature and hopefully that year will prove useful, even though we are not competing or not getting the best training we could be getting."

The next big decision Adeleke faces is what to do post-Leaving Certificate.

She has explored the idea of going on an athletic scholarship to the US - she visited America during mid-term last October on a scouting mission and had planned to go again this summer until the Covid-19 pandemic.

Taking up a US scholarship is a road least travelled by Irish sprinters but Adeleke, who won the 200m at the European U-18 championships in 2018, is keeping an open mind.

A conscientious student, the decision to replace the Leaving Certificate exam with a predictive grading system doesn't faze her in the least. "I'm grateful now that I was pretty consistent in my school and class exams."

But the timing of the results will impact on whether she goes to America or pursues her third-level studies in Ireland.

"I'm not sure when the Leaving Certificate results will be out and if I do decide to go the US I'm not sure I would be able to begin this fall. My other option is to start in January which would be a pretty tough way to begin a new regime."

The benefits of staying at home are self-evident: she would retain her current team including her coach and her Nigerian-born parents Ade and Prince would be close-by,

"There are so many things that would keep me in Ireland. But if I don't like the American experience I have the option of coming home. I'm not scared of exploring the idea."

SPAR ambassador and Irish international athlete Rhasidat Adeleke was speaking to promote the Daily Mile. The SPAR-supported initiative, sees primary school students run or jog at their own pace every day for 15 minutes. For more information on the programme, log onto thedailymile.ie

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