INTERVIEW: How Nigeria can get more ‘Amusans’

Despite the tough realities, challenges, and unfavourable situations, many Nigerian coaches are going out of their method to proceed to unearth abilities for the nation.

Not often do many get a point out when the glory moments arrive, however they continue to be fulfilled seeing their hardwork flourishing into one thing they didn’t think about.

For Coach Ayodele Solaja, popularly known as Buka T in athletics circles, his pleasure is aware of no bounds seeing one in every of his merchandise, Amusan, turn out to be a world file holder and a world champion on the similar time.

On this unique interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Buka T relives the common-or-garden starting of Oluwatobiloba Amusan within the historical metropolis of Ijebu Ode.

Sadly, the coach reveals how a number of different abilities; some even ‘higher’ than Amusan by no means made it to the world podium.


PT: Congratulations Coach! Are you heading to the Commonwealth Video games to see your lady (Tobi Amusan)?

Buka T: No, I’m within the World Juniors camp in Asaba. We’re getting ready for the competitors arising in Colombia.

PT: So, how is the preparation occurring with the kids?

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Buka T: It’s occurring nicely. We’re in full gear, all issues being equal.

PT: Do you see Nigeria matching up with the feat we made in Nairobi and even doing higher than we did on the final World Juniors?

Buka T: I believe as a result of some international locations didn’t attend Kenya underneath 20, this one is perhaps a bit of bit harder, with the People coming, however on the similar time, now we have good athletes that may carry out nicely. I believe we are going to do as a lot, if not higher.

The coach and some other athletes
The coach and another athletes

PT: Most individuals know that Tobi Amusan is likely one of the quite a few athletes who handed by means of your tutelage. Did it come as a shock if you noticed her efficiency on the World Championships the place she broke the World File?

Buka T: It was a shock. I didn’t see the World File coming. What I really noticed was her being on the rostrum. I used to be anticipating perhaps a 12.3s or so. I felt that even gold could be adequate as a result of something might at all times occur within the finals.

When she ran the rounds and broke the African file, that was after I knew that one thing like that might occur. I knew she was not operating all out, she was operating to qualify, and he or she was operating so relaxed. I knew she had a lot extra in retailer after that race. That was after I had that inclination that it was attainable.

PT: How proud are you {that a} lady you educated has conquered the world in record-breaking trend?

Buka T: I used to be wowed, not simply because she was a woman that I educated. I’d have felt the identical for any athlete that got here out of Nigeria. That is one thing that’s unprecedented. It’s one thing that just about no one noticed coming. For the truth that it was someone that I educated, there is no such thing as a means I can categorical that pleasure.

PT: For people who have no idea, are you able to simply give us a short throwback on the way you and Amusan began out and the way it has been since then?

Buka T: Right here in Ijebu Ode, I made it some extent of obligation to at all times attend inter-house sports activities or any trial that’s accomplished within the stadium. I can’t actually say that is precisely how we got here in touch however I do know that at one time or the opposite, as a result of they had been so many. I’d go to their colleges after which they’d begin coming to the stadium after which their associates too will begin coming with them.

It should have been a kind of instances after I was going to their colleges and he or she was one in every of them. It wasn’t like she was excellent as a result of if she was an impressive athlete, then I’d say that is precisely after we met.

She wasn’t excellent and he or she was so smallish. We used to name her ‘shanko’ due to her small stature. It should have been a kind of instances after I went to their faculty and it wasn’t solely their faculty; I went to just about each faculty round Ijebu Ode space to scout for athletes.

I began noticing her very nicely round 2009 when she was a part of my athletes as a gaggle, however I seen when she began making the varsity sports activities groups. She was representing Ogun state within the faculty sports activities workforce, that was after I began placing my consideration on her as a result of she was now standing out, even together with her small stature, you possibly can see that this was somebody that’s prone to do nicely sooner or later.

PT: Amusan has stated in previous interviews, that she didn’t begin out as a hurdler, are you able to inform us extra about her early days as a sprinter and the transition into the hurdles occasion?

Oluwatobiloba Amusan (Photo Credit: World Athletics on Twitter)
Oluwatobiloba Amusan (Picture Credit score: World Athletics on Twitter)

Buka T: When she began, she was a sprinter and a jumper. She wasn’t a hurdler. As much as 2013 when she went to Ukraine and the AYAC – African Youth Championships in Warri, she was only a sprinter and an extended jumper, really. It was after that competitors in Warri that I made a decision to introduce her to the hurdles. I didn’t simply introduce her to the hurdles like that, I wished her to do the Heptathlon, as a result of she was multi-talented.

She might run and soar and my imaginative and prescient was to make her somebody like Persistence Itanyi, who additionally had a smallish stature and did nicely in Heptathlon. My thought then was to coach her for a season for that. I began coaching her within the hurdles, the shot put, and javelin till it now grew to become apparent that she would achieve this nicely within the hurdles and that’s after we now confronted the hurdles.

PT: In accordance with Amusan, solely her mom gave full consent to her involvement in Sports activities. Her father didn’t. How had been you capable of handle the durations when each mother and father weren’t in settlement for Tobi to do sports activities?

Buka T: At one level, the daddy stated she shouldn’t come to the stadium anymore, that she ought to face her research. I used to be at all times in contact together with her mom. Infrequently, she would sneak to the stadium however after a while she stopped coming. At that interval I used to be in touch with the mom and thru the mom, was speaking to the daddy as a result of the daddy doesn’t work in Ijebu Ode and solely got here in through the weekends.

I used to be at all times speaking to the mom and he or she would now speak to the daddy. After her WAEC, with persistence, as a result of I felt that if I had relented, that will have been the tip.

The mom was once a sprinter however as she instructed me, she stated it’s due to the way in which she was handled when she was operating, she doesn’t need her daughter to go by means of the identical factor.

I used to be at all times telling them that hers will likely be totally different as a result of I don’t wait so that you can be a part of the workforce. I need you to excel in order that they’ll’t do with out you. So that you just don’t turn out to be a second fiddle and convey somebody from outdoors to switch you. They see you first earlier than contemplating others and I instructed them that I’d guarantee that she’s on the high of her sport in order that it wouldn’t come to a degree the place now we have to beg for her to be on the workforce. On the finish of the day, the daddy consented and he or she began coaching.

PT: The daddy later gave his consent?

Buka T: He was now her main supporter as a result of after we wished to journey, he would be the one to deliver her to the bus cease together with his automobile and we are going to speak. He was now supportive in each space.

Buka T at work
Buka T at work

PT: The idea is that now we have many untapped Amusans scattered throughout Nigeria. What do you assume, as a rustic, we must be doing otherwise now to get the most effective from the abilities now we have?

Buka T: I believe crucial facet of our sports activities tradition is that the personal sector ought to take over. That’s the main factor. That’s how it’s accomplished the place sport excels all around the world. As soon as the federal government is in cost, the function of presidency is extra concerning the organisation however when, for instance, I’m a non-public membership, the federal government is not going to exit of its method to come and sponsor me.

If an enabling surroundings isn’t there for the personal sector to come back in, then folks like us will proceed to endure. Take Tobi, for instance. I can inform you that amongst Tobi’s set, she was not the most effective, she was among the finest however not the one finest. There was one lady referred to as Ronke, the identical set, the identical faculty, similar class. That lady received faculty sports activities in Calabar and I went to their faculty for inter-house sports activities, the lady got here first in 200, Tobi got here first in 100 metres.

If you have a look at the lady’s stature you’ll know that she was a bit of bit forward of the others. What helped Tobi was help from her mother and father. Not from another place however from them and a bit of from me. The opposite lady I’m speaking about didn’t get help from her mother and father as a result of she was fatherless and her mom was not well-to-do so she pale alongside the way in which.

READ ALSO: Tobi Amusan: Nigeria’s ‘virtually lady’ who now guidelines the world

At that cut-off date, I had no sponsors. The little assets I had, I needed to begin sharing amongst totally different athletes that I had. In Tobi’s case, her mother and father had been at all times there to help her financially. There was a time after I needed to take six of them to Akwa Ibom underneath my very own sponsorship for about three months in 2012.

I took care of their feeding and all the pieces for over three months, Tobi included. I might do this however think about if I had sponsors. I’d have accomplished far more. The federal government is not going to exit of its method to begin providing you with cash when you find yourself not a authorities official. They don’t even give authorities officers cash until after they need to do tenting.

Nigeria's Tobi Amusan has won a Gold medal in the Women's 100m Hurdles at the World Athletics Championships, after breaking the world record with a time of 12.06 seconds. (Photo Credit: World Athletics on Twitter)
Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan has received a Gold medal within the Girls’s 100m Hurdles on the World Athletics Championships, after breaking the world file with a time of 12.06 seconds. (Picture Credit score: World Athletics on Twitter)

We’re speaking of an entire season. The personal sector ought to be inspired to be extra concerned in sports activities on this nation. One of the best locations to get athletes on the grassroots is the faculties, in order that they have to be a type of synergy between the ministry of sports activities and the ministry of training in all spheres – federal, state, and native, in order that they are going to deliver out a form of programme that may reconcile each of them.

There have to be that synergy and most significantly, allow us to attempt to put sq. pegs in sq. holes. You don’t see a state of affairs the place a health care provider is made minister of justice, however in sports activities, anyone is usually a minister or commissioner.

Allow us to deliver technocrats who know their onions, who know what is occurring in order that they can assist us to forge the sports activities ahead in order that we received’t go one step ahead and three steps backward. You deliver somebody and he has to study on the job and now we have gone again three or 4 steps earlier than he is aware of his onions he’s eliminated and one other particular person is introduced.

That form of factor doesn’t permit for continuity. These are only a few of the issues that now we have to speak about. What about amenities and tools, what number of colleges have normal tracks, and amenities for coaching? Now the sports activities council is redundant due to the dearth of cash for competitions. The coaches within the sports activities council, how will you get them to work when there are not any competitions?

This 12 months (2022), what number of underage competitions did athletics do all around the nation? We’re presupposed to be doing under13,15,16,18,20,23. So that somebody that comes at the moment and says she’s is underneath 13 received’t come tomorrow and say she is underneath this after we already have you ever at this specific 12 months you’re at this age. When the primary competitors the particular person is underneath 18 and he or she has been attempting for what number of years, what does she do, she cuts down her age as a result of there is no such thing as a competitors to cater for them.

Oluwatobiloba Amusan
Oluwatobiloba Amusan

PT: Do you assume what Tobi has been capable of obtain will make extra mother and father see that sport isn’t evil and it will probably go hand-in-hand with training. How will it change the orientation of fogeys and encourage younger lads to enter sports activities?

Buka T: In Amusan’s Alma Mata, there’s one younger lady there that may be very proficient. She’s about 13 years outdated. I even purchased her spike footwear just for her father to say that she can’t proceed with sports activities. I did all the pieces to persuade the daddy to the extent that I put down an undertaken that if she doesn’t go WAEC I’d take the accountability however on the finish of the day, no means.

However perhaps with this that has occurred, You realize, as a result of there was a rally even within the lady’s faculty in Our Girl of Apostles regarding Amusan’s victory. Possibly it could now get to the daddy and get to the mom.

As a result of she was brandishing a $100,000 cheque. Convert that to Naira now… And perhaps that will assist and perhaps that will encourage them.

Some mother and father would say “I need my baby to solely examine” and by the point we’re telling them, Sports activities and Teachers at all times go hand in hand. they’d ask “This stadium you will? how a lot would you pay my baby? You realize.

So, this victory from Amusan now would make them know that whether it is concerning the examine? No downside, whether it is about being profitable? No downside. However each would at all times go collectively. I’m certain that it could go a great distance for folks to permit their wards to permit their youngsters, particularly the feminine gender.

PT: Thanks on your time and hold producing extra stars for Nigeria.

Buka T: You might be welcome. As soon as we get the help we want, we are able to positively do greater than we’re doing now.

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