The news of last weekend’s victory of Oluwatobiloba Ayomide Amusan, famously known as Tobi Amusan, at the 2022 World Athletics Championships at Oregon, United States of America could not have come at a better time. It was a pleasant antidote, a refreshing departure from the stale news of the despicable and horrendous video trending at that time of the plight of the kidnapped train attack victims in the hands of their captors. Or even the embarrassment at the Abuja Law School in Bwari, a satellite town of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
At that event, the Nigerian-born track and field athlete who specialises in the 100 metres hurdles and also competes as a sprinter, set a world record when she won a gold medal in the Women’s 110m hurdles. She is, indeed, Nigeria’s shining star at the Championship. Since, she has continued to receive what is comparable to an avalanche of congratulatory messages from an excited home country as well as an appreciative international sports community.
By that accomplishment, she has become a role model to young girls especially in her alma mater, Our Lady of Apostles Secondary School, Ijebu Ode in Ogun state. It is remarkable that the students of that school sang the National Anthem while lifting her poster aloft in admiration. The gesture is a recognition of her as a leading light and pacesetter worthy of emulation.
Born on April 23, 1997, she has, in so short a time, captured international attention as an athlete of class ready to hold her own among her peers in the world of sports. She has refused to be bothered by the shenanigans of spoil sports like Michael Johnson.
Her latest milestone follows what she accomplished at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. Tobi is also a two-time African Games champion in the event. She is a holder of the Diamond League Trophy which she won in Zurich in 2021 in the 100m hurdles.
Amusan showed a lot of athletic potential from an early age. She was a silver medalist at the 2013 African Youth Championships in Warri and won the gold medal in the 100 metres hurdles at the 2015 African Junior Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa. In 2015, while making her All-Africa Games debut as an eighteen-year-old, she won the gold medal in the 100 metres hurdles.
The star took her talent offshore to the United States of America. As a freshman at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Amusan became the second athlete of the university to be named C-USA Female Track athlete of the Year since UTEP joined C-USA. She was the gold medalist in both the 100 m hurdles and the 200 m. She went on to represent Nigeria at the Rio Olympic Games, reaching the semifinals of the 100 m hurdles.
In her first outdoor race of 2017, she ran a then lifetime best and UTEP record of 12.63 seconds in the 100 metres hurdles. She also represented Nigeria at the World Championships in London later in the year. In 2018, she represented Nigeria at the Birmingham World Indoor Championships reaching the final of the 60 metres hurdles.
At the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, she also won a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 m relay with her team mates, Joy Udo-Gabriel, Blessing Okagbare and Rosemary Chukwuma. Later in the year, she won her first African Championships title in her specialist event at the Asaba African Championships. This fulfilled a Nigerian tradition as Judy Bell-Gam had won this race for Nigeria at the first African Championships. She also claimed a gold medal in the 4 x 100 m relay at the championships.
Amusan opened her 2022 season by winning the 2022 Diamond League event in Paris where she set an African record by 0.01seconds with a time of 12.41 seconds. She won gold in the 100m hurdles at the 2022 African Championships in Mauritius, defending her title successfully with a time of 12.57seconds. That streak of a winner in her manifested again when she also competed in the women’s 4×100m and won gold.
Her performance at the 2022 World Championships was not a fluke. She entered the competition as a medal contender after back-to-back 4th place finishes. In the heats she ran an African record of 12.40 seconds, improving on her old record by 0.01 seconds. In the semifinal, she set a new world record of 12.12 seconds. She bested her time once again in the final, running 12.06s, becoming the first Nigerian world champion at the World Athletics Championships.
Like most champions, Amusan probably did not fully digest the magnitude of the feat she had recorded on the night until the patriotic tunes of Nigeria’s national anthem blazoned during the medal presentation. The 25-year-old’s face was wet with tears as she sang “the labour of our heroes past shall never be in vain.” She suddenly realised she’s one of those “heroes” now.
Deservedly, her name will be taught as a source of inspiration to millions of children. Her reign as Nigeria’s queen of the track has begun.