It is not easy to upstage javelin superstar Andreas Thorkildsen in Norwegian media reports, but sprint hope Jaysuma Ndure managed it in Doha when he won the 100m in the new Norwegian record of 10.01, lopping 0.05 from his previous record.
Now Ndure stands as a realistic hope to win in front of his home crowd at the Exxon Mobil Bislett Games on 6 June , the second of six meetings of the classic ÅF Golden League in 2008. At the moment he is due to meet last year’s IAAF World championship silver medallist, Derrick Atkins of the Bahamas, but now organisers are also chasing the latest hot-ticket, Usain Bolt, after his astonishing 9.76 in Jamaica.
Coach, Olav Magne Tveita was positively brimming with excitement about his charge’s run in Qatar: “It was what we had hoped for,” he said. “That he should continue where he left off last year. Things look good. He ran very well half way through the race but the start was not so good and he had problems towards the end.”
In preparation for the biggest season of his life, Ndure travelled to San Diego for a seven-week stay in early March. Despite the fact that he went there as the fourth fastest man indoors last winter with 6.55 secs for the 60m, Tveita could see there was still a lot of work to do on his start. It was a weakness Tveita would return to after Doha: “His first step is terrible,” said his coach. “He is too high on his toes and cannot put his weight on his foot so he completely misses the first step!”
It was at the end of last season that Ndure became the first Norwegian to go under the 20-sec barrier for 200m, in the process astonishing everyone when he clocked 19.89 at the World Athletics Final in Stuttgart, leaving World bronze medallist, American Wallace Spearmon, three metres adrift. He also consigned Geir Moen’s excellent record of 20.17 to history.
Ndure had missed the Osaka IAAF World championships because he was still serving a quarantine imposed on him by his native Gambia. But in December Norwegian and Gambian officials came to an agreement making Ndure eligible to run for his adopted country at the Beijing Olympics. Now Norway is holding its breath to see if Ndure can bring back Norway’s first ever sprint medal from the Olympic Games.
It is all a far cry from his early beginnings just after his move to Oslo when in 2002 Tveita saw him training with some girls at what is now his local club BUL in Oslo. Ndure disappeared from the scene but cropped up later that year clocking 10.66 in a local meeting and the athlete-coach relationship started.
Though born in Gambia, Ndure’s father had lived in Norway for 20 years so it was not unusual for the 18-year-old to go to Oslo to live with his extended family. If only he had arrived two months earlier, he would have automatically gained Norwegian citizenship. Instead, there has been a lengthy wait after competing for Gambia at the Athens Games and the Helsinki IAAF World championships.
Ndure started running 100m in Gambia but since he always beat his best friend, he decided to switch to the 200m so that his friend would not get angry. Now despite his 10.01 from Doha there are doubts as to whether his ideal distance is the 200m, particularly after that run in Stuttgart. No doubt in the course of this season, the answer to the conundrum will become clear.
Michael Butcher for the IAAF