After coasting through his semi in 6.51 seconds yesterday at Valencia’s Palau Velodromo Luis Puig, Olusoji Fasuba clearly appeared to be the man to beat in the World Indoor Championships final. Gliding comfortably over the final 20 metres, the 23-year-old Nigerian clearly had plenty in reserve.
But the final, as he can readily attest, is an entirely different animal. Champions need to think and react quickly when the unexpected arises. For Fasuba, that variable was cramping in his calves just as he began accelerating from the nearly even field just beyond the midway point.
“At about 40 metres I had the lead, but I got some cramps so I knew I had to fight more. I think I kind of missed a step at about half way and got a little cramp, but said, ‘No, this medal is yours, you’ve got to push. And it’s not going to leave you anymore.’”
He fought on valiantly to reach the line, for the third time this season, with a world-leading 6.51. The end result was the same as his performance in the semis, but the two runs were wildy different.
“I did a 6.51 easy (in the semis), and we all thought it was going to be a 6.4 in the final. But the final is always a little more tense, and we know that anything could happen. They were fast starters and I had to keep up with them. Because my reaction was not that quick. But I had a good turnover and I knew it was going to get better.”
So apparently did his coach, Pierre-Jean Vazel, whose words Fasuba took to heart midway through the race.
“Going into the final he told me, ‘You’ve worked very hard this year, you’ve produced a lot of good times in races, you produced a lot of good times in training.’ In the middle of the race when I was a little tense, I remembered the words of my coach and I pushed harder.”
Fasuba has collected his share of accolades since he began competing professionally in 2003. He took the African 100m title in 2004 and 2006, nabbed Commonwealth silver in 2006, and Olympic bronze in the 4x100m Relay in Athens in 2004. But Valencia provided his first medal of any sort on a truly global stage.
Now with his first global title finally under his belt, Fasuba said he’ll be better prepared, at least psychologically, as the focus turns to the outdoor season.
“It’ll make me go into the next training phase with a little happiness. Being a World champion has always been my dream. And I finally got it this year.”
Fasuba sprang to the international limelight after his dazzling 9.85 African record in Doha in the late spring of 2006, and while he’s remained competitive since, he hasn’t approached that sort of performance since. But he’s not particularly overburdened by chasing fast times.
“I don’t want to think about the African record,” he said. “I think about the World record more. But I try not to let it be a driving force to me, just let it come naturally. The African record came naturally to me. And I just need to find the rhythm, but I believe that it’s very close.”
Fasuba spends most of his time in Athens, where he maintains his year round training base. He enjoys the weather, his proximity to the sea, as well as Greek food.
“The beach is close to the stadium, and sometimes when I’m not training I go have some fun at the beach. Mainly just relaxing.”
But there will be little time for relaxation in the near future because his road to Beijing continues very seriously in about a month’s time at the Nigerian Olympic Trials.
“The trials are very soon, so I’ve got to change my gear as soon as possible and get ready for the 100.”
Bob Ramsak for the IAAF