Reviewing 2017 brings mixed emotions for Ojie Edoburun. “I think on paper it was my best year yet, getting PBs and winning titles. My highlight would be going under 10 seconds twice, albeit windy. It’s shown me a glimpse of things to come.”
He has every right to be pleased. Taking gold at the European under-23 Championships in Poland came after a great competition at the nationals in Bedford, which pushed him to a new legal PB of 10.12s. Yet with success came a measure of disappointment.
“On the flipside, I didn’t make the world championship team. It came down to not handling myself well on the day. At the time I felt pumped and ready, but looking back on it now I feel a lot wiser.”
It’s clear from talking to Ojie that he’s been on quite a journey as a developing athlete over the last couple of years – one he’s started writing about in a blog. The journey centres on the key word “transition” from being a junior to a senior athlete, something the 21-year-old has understandably contemplated.
“I’m in the process of trying to master that race day approach. You need reassurance in terms of knowing you’re good enough. I’m learning that the day itself can be an anti-climax. I know it’s what fans and spectators get ready for, but sometimes you regret hyping it up.”
Hype can be a bit of a toxic word in these situations. Ojie references quick times and even shoe contracts as reasons for fans and peers expecting more from young athletes. This in turn can lead to them putting more pressure on themselves. For some, the first proof that Edoburun could do it when it mattered on the senior stage was the 2015 British Championships.
He came in hot-footed as the recently crowned European Junior Champion and came out with an impressive third place behind CJ Ujah and James Dasaolu, which put his name on many peoples lips. 12 months later, he was part of Team GB’s Olympic relay squad. Not replicating that this year was hard to take.
“It was a tough time. I was just empty physically and emotionally. Then, before the under-23s I wasn’t sleeping well, I got ill. I had done about two sessions; proper sessions of running fast. I thought if I can’t win this then it’ll be a complete nightmare. I think there were guys who’d been running quick, but hadn’t been through what I’d been through coming into that competition. I feel like that experience played to my advantage.”
This years learning curve has also shed light on how different athletes get to where they want to be. An interesting debate to be had is whether British athletes should stay in the UK, or try crossing the Atlantic. “Previously, I hadn’t really seen Brits coming out of America with a story to tell. Now you’ve got people like Josh Kerr in the 1500m and Nethaneel Mitchell-Blake. But at the time I was considering it, I didn’t see anyone do that.
“I would hear people say ‘they get burned out and race too much’, but the benefits are racing world class athletes week in, week out. It must make such a difference. You get to Europe and find the competition level isn’t as high. But everyone goes through some sort of transition. If you are a college athlete, you have to try and make it on the pro circuit.
Now a final year Middlesex University student, Ojie is balancing studies with a new training regime under coach Steve Fudge. “For me, the goal is to take things one step at a time. My big view is now 2020. My coach and I have broken down what steps we need to be taking to realistically get there.
“The first step is indoors. Although I’ve never really been an indoors guy, if I’m going to be up there, I’ve got to rub shoulders with the quick starters and get my feet in the water. The goal is to get into the European team in Berlin, from there do well in 2019 and work towards being more confident.”
His focus is palpable, but he also confesses he’s an athlete who loves “being immersed in athletics.” If anything that makes him more inclined to curse the luck that has seen him run seven windy personal bests in the last two seasons. The fastest being 9.93s +4.4 m/s in Florida in April.
“It’s so annoying” he laughs. “If I’m looking at another athlete, I tend to notice what they’ve done legally on paper. I’ve been unlucky. Last year I ran 10.02s at the trials, and it would’ve been a different conversation if this years (10.06 +2.1 m/s) race at Loughborough hadn’t been the only race of the day that was windy!
“I don’t want to leave it to luck. I don’t want to be one of those athletes that relies on it being a good day in order to get quick times. That’s what I’m working on.”