'I’m still not a guru at the event, but I am kind of learning': Irish ace Adeleke insists there is more to come

Record-breaking Irish sprinter Rhasidat Adeleke has today been announced as the newest sporting ambassador of Allianz Insurance, as the brand commits to supporting the 20-year old’s bid to compete at the Olympic Games in Paris 2024. Picture by INPHO
Record-breaking Irish sprinter Rhasidat Adeleke has today been announced as the newest sporting ambassador of Allianz Insurance, as the brand commits to supporting the 20-year old’s bid to compete at the Olympic Games in Paris 2024. Picture by INPHO

IT is an intimidating prospect for the rest of the field, but Irish sprint sensation Rhasidat Adeleke feels there is still so much more to come as she develops into a 400m force to be reckoned with.

In the third year of a scholarship at the University of Texas, the Dubliner’s stock continues to soar – and last weekend Adeleke smashed her own Irish 400m record at the Big 12 Conference Championships in Lubbock.

That 50.33 clocked was the fastest women’s indoor time in American collegiate history, and the second fastest in the world this year.

Yet, having also set Irish records at 60m, 200m and 300m last year, the 20-year-old is still adjusting to the longer distance and discovering what she is capable of.

“I’m still kind of in that position,” said Adeleke, speaking as she was announced as a new sporting ambassador of Allianz Insurance.

“My coach will tell me to get out, in the 400m that’s the first lap indoors, and I’d be scared to get out because I’m scared to die! He’s like ‘no, you’re strong enough, if you get out, you’ll be able to hold the momentum’, and I didn’t realise that until my recent races.

“So my first opener, I didn’t get out as fast as I was supposed to, and also in the second race too, but I’m now understanding, if I get out faster, my second race will also be faster, or the same, regardless, because I’d holding the momentum from the first lap.

 “Things like that I’m trying to understand, what the speed of the first lap is supposed to feel like, all those minor things. I’m still not a guru at the event, but I am kind of learning.”

Adeleke is not part of the Ireland squad bound for the European Indoor Championships in Istanbul this weekend, with her focus fully on landing the individual National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) title in Albuquerque on the weekend of March 10/11.

The summer’s European U23 Championships remain a part of her plans for a return to the green vest, though, and Adeleke feels there is huge scope for improvement in the months ahead.

"Every athlete has a goal meeting with our coach [Edrick Floréal] at the beginning of the year and I put my goals for this season. My goal for the indoor season was 50.8 and he gave us these sheets back yesterday and said 'everyone look at your goals, have you met your goals and if you want to change them you can change them’.

"I hadn't remembered what I put down for my goal and I saw it on the sheet - even when I wrote that down it was a far-fetched dream for me.

"Then to see that I've achieved it in my opener and then again at Big 12 Championships, it was just such a surprise… I was just so grateful to look back at it.

“Every race I ran, there’s always been something wrong, and I always feel there’s a little more there, the fact I’ve got someone pushing me, I have so much more to give. I opened up with 50.4 and it was a big drop.

“Even though I do run 50.4 and 50.3, I don’t feel like I was at max capacity. I finish the race and I feel fine, so I definitely do feel there’s a big jump to come.”

As for the European U23s, which take place in Finland in July, she added: “I had it in my plans, actually… we’ll see how it goes.

“I’ll most likely be participating in the U23s, unless something changes. If Flo [Floréal] decides to pull me out, I guess I won’t go. He has the bigger plan and I trust everything he says.

“If he thinks it won’t be useful in the progression of my season or might affect my chance of success at World Championships, I might not do it but as of now, I should be competing at European U23s.”

Despite the remarkable progress made, even in recent months, Adeleke insists she is no rush to become a professional athlete just yet.

“Me and my coach have been talking about things like that… I’m just trying to focus on now because even if I do go pro this year, I won’t be going pro right now.

“I don’t want to get distracted and I feel it’s very often that elite athletes, when they run fast times, they get distracted and all they start thinking about is making decisions based on becoming a professional athlete. I kind of just want to stay in the moment.

“I have those things in the back of my mind, to have those discussions, and I’ll know where it’s going to be at in the next couple of months, but I’m definitely trying to live in the moment.

“I’m still new to the event so there’s a lot of improvements to be made. I feel like becoming a professional athlete will just give me more resources and opportunities to display my talents on a major level.”

August’s World Championships in Budapest remain a key target, so too next year’s Olympic Games in Paris, and athletics fanatics back home will follow her progress with interest - no matter where Adeleke is competing.

Even in her absence, the furore around this potential superstar seems to grow with each passing week. Thousands of miles away, Adeleke is aware of the rising tide of support, and the expectation it brings – but being able to turn it off, she has learned, is a blessing.

“I definitely always appreciate all the noise, it motivates me seeing how much joy I bring sometimes to people I don’t even know.

“But I also agree that being away from it kind of allows me, since I’m not physically in Ireland, and most of the commotion is on social media, I am able to just turn my phone off, reset and get ready for my next competition.

“It can be a positive that sometimes I’m not at home because, if I go to the track, I’m able to just focus on my training instead of people coming up and congratulating me, even though they have good intentions.

“Sometimes it can result in you kind of getting distracted, so I guess it kind of helps being out here sometimes.”