At only 19 years old, University of Texas (UT) athlete and Irish record holder over 200 metres, Rhasidat Adeleke, has already achieved what most could only dream of in their whole career. Her double gold medal winning performance (100m & 200m) at the European Athletics U20 Championships in Tallinn, Estonia last year caught the attention of not only world athletics, but world sport. And 2022 has also started off with a bang thanks to another Irish indoor record with a time of 36.87 seconds over 300m at the Clemson Invite, South Carolina.
Beyond the elite athlete, this young woman is friendly, very optimistic and has a personality to match her dazzling achievements on the track. Shortly after her exploits in Tallinn, we had the pleasure to sit down with Rhasidat to talk about all things community, ambitions, heroes and of course, running.
Rhasidat, it’s hard not to start with your amazing achievements on the track! Talk to us a little about your Irish record over 200 metres.
So I broke the national record with a time of 22.90 seconds over 200 metres at the U20 Euro Champs. It’s great to know that I’m the fastest to have run that distance from Ireland ever. Going into the race, I wasn’t really thinking about records or certain times, I was just focused on trying to win the race and maybe achieving a personal best in the process. If you focus on too many things, it can hinder your performance.
Where did you grow up and how did you get into athletics?
I grew up in Tallaght, Dublin. I think I joined an athletics club when I was 12 as my PE teacher spotted my talent and encouraged me to try it out. I did everything from jumps to throws to long distance running but found sprinting the most exciting. I was also better at it so that helped! I also played some basketball growing up so if I wasn’t a sprinter, I think I would be playing that.
And how did you end up in the University of Texas?
The head coach at UT reached out to me and offered me a scholarship. I went to visit and it is such a strong school in terms of academics. Also, the facilities and coaches are top class. I’m studying Economics there.
Who are your sporting heroes?
Yeah, I have a couple of people that I look up to. Allyson Felix has been so dominant throughout her long career, I admire her. Obviously being a sprinter, Usain Bolt was incredible and went unbeaten for so long. Also, I’m inspired by Michael Jordan. He was always quite hard on himself but he had a level of focus that was unmatched. He was hard on himself so he could get better.
Tell us a little bit about your community.
There are so many people who have helped me out in my life. My mum is always there with me and does everything with my best interests in mind. My coaches in Ireland (Daniel + Johnny) and my coaches in the US (Coach Flo + Ricky) are always there for me and have been so helpful. All the messages of support online too on Twitter and Instagram etc. I appreciate it so much. And just my family & friends in general, I’m lucky to have such a great circle.
What would you say to young sports people in Ireland?
Just try everything and don’t give up! Don’t let minor setbacks stop you and give yourself a chance in all different sports and disciplines as it might take some time to find the right one for you. And just to stay motivated, put in the hard work and you’ll see the results come through in the end.
Do you have any pre-race rituals?
I pray. Faith plays such an important role in my life. It gives me so much hope and a sense of strength knowing that God is with me. I also try to stay as positive as possible. Think positive thoughts, think of doing your best. That helps me a lot as everyone around you is nervous. Also, I listen to music. Mostly rap music as it gets me hyped and ready for the race. I love Young Thug.
Do you feel like you’ve missed out on other things by committing to the sport so young?
I actually think I’ve gained a lot by committing to the sport from a young age. I still get to do a lot of things teenagers get to do. I don’t really mind sacrificing a couple of things in a “normal” teenager’s life in order to achieve my goals. And I still make time to just chill out - go bowling, spend time with my friends. It’s so important to take time out from intense training.
Finally, talk to us about the Olympics and your ambition for Paris 2024?
Yeah, obviously it was unfortunate that the ranking system for Tokyo didn’t work out in my favour. I was faster than a lot of athletes that got to go but I tried to process it pretty quickly. I’m really looking forward to Paris 2024 as I’ll have a lot more training under my belt at that stage and I’ll have hopefully finished my degree then too. It’s a huge deal to become an Olympian! Hopefully I will be able to achieve my goals there, reach a final and get in amongst the medals!!
With a calm and confident demeanour, Rhasidat has high hopes for her future within athletics. After tasting remarkable success at such an early stage of her career, it has given her extra motivation to keep up all the hard work in order to achieve her goals. We’re all behind you, Rhasidat, and wish you the best of luck!