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Tosin Oke’s meteoric rise to stardom
Nigeria's Triple Jump star, Tosin Oke gave a glimpse of what Nigerians should expect at the 10th All Africa Games in Maputo when he jumped a season's best of 17.21m at the 59th edition of the London Samsung Diamond League earlier this month.
The jump placed him in the second position after American Christian Taylor recorded 17.68m to win the gold and another Nigerian-born British star Idowu Phillips came third with 17.07m.
Taylor produced a personal best while Oke produced a season's best to upset defending world champion Phillips Idowu.
The U.S. champion and Idowu were lavishly celebrated by the media in their respective countries but Oke went home an unsung hero. He did not make frontpage news in Nigeria like his counterparts. Even the American and British media simply made passing reference to his feat while the British newspapers canonized Christie Ohuruogu who came last in the 400m women.
Tosin Oke deserves all the epithets and accolades in the English lexicon especially with his carriage and confidence at the London Diamond Meet as he gave the American and his compatriot, Idowu a run for their money.
It was unfortunate that he could not leap over the 17.68m record of the American but it was obvious that his intention was to dust the champion and edge his name in gold like he did at the last Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, India.
At 31, Oke's rise from a Cambridge rookie in 1997 to world's top five is phenomenon.
His case becomes a classic example of rugged determination to carve a niche for oneself when he chose to dump Britain where he had a bright future to pit his tent with his fatherland, Nigeria where our heroes are usually not worshipped or hardly celebrated like the western world.
Since 2008 that he declared his interest in competing for his country of origin, Nigeria, it has been a case of leaping from grace to grace.
In the 2010 season, Tosin jumped a series of personal bests indoors, finishing with 16.89m in Birmingham. In his finest season so far, he went on to win the 2010 African Championships in Nairobi, Kenya with a personal best jump of 17.22m, 1 cm off the Championship record, and to top it off, became the 2010 Commonwealth Games Champion in New Delhi, India with his second furthest jump ever-17.16m.
The longest standing national record in track and field in Nigeria is the 17.26m in the triple jump set by Ajayi Agbebaku almost three decades ago in Edmonton, Canada and we have the strong conviction that the current African and national champion can surpass the mark pretty soon, as the London-based jumper's swan-sung has been winning medals for the country and himself as his top priority.
We are particularly happy that Nigeria stands a pole position at the All Africa Games in Maputo. Baring injury, nothing can stop Tosin from the podium while the whole of Maputo stands still for the Nigerian National Anthem after he must have broken the Games record.
With athletes like Tosin, Chika Chukwumerije, Blessing Okagbare and a host of others, Team Nigeria appear set for another record breaking outing at the All Africa Games irrespective of the evil machination of South Africa.
With 17.21m, Oke remains one of Nigeria's biggest prospects for a medal at both the All African Games in Mozambique where he will make his debut as well as the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
Aware that coming tops in Maputo will not be a stroll in the pack like it was in Calabar, Oke already has his eyes on his ‘closest rivals' and his plans well cut out.
There is a South African guy, Mokoena Khotso, who is coming back to the triple jump, so he is going to be on his radar. He was a silver medalist in the long jump at the World Championships, so Oke should see him as biggest rival.
There's also the Cameroonian who came second during the Commonwealth Games, but the main thing is the World Championships. Getting to the finals and trying to get a medal will be a morale booster to the AAG with the euphoria of the World Championships.
As Daegu & Maputo 2011 beckons, and looking at the journey so far, it won't be out of place to say that Nigerians aren't seen nothing yet. The sky may not be able to limit him.