Should Rashidat Adeleke be tagged a generational talent?

 

Amid so much chaos, lights, and chants at the just-concluded world relays in Nassau, Bahamas, the athletes graced the Thomas Robinson Stadium remained the major actors. They were the reason thousands of fans left their adjusted daily schedules to come to watch them at their full prowess. But as we always see in every competition, some names will stand out more than others.

Rashidat Adeleke is an athlete who has reached a new level of running in the Bahamas. So much so that people started talking about the possibility of her being a generational talent. And we don’t use such vocabulary loosely. Athletics is a sport that sees so many people come and go to various events, and few can match up the numbers rarely seen at a world level. Irish woman Adeleke, who until last year was still in College at the University of Texas is one name that we can’t ignore anymore.

Having set a Personal Best of 49.20s in the 400m at just 20 years of age, Adeleke had shown enough signs that she would be a big star in the sport. The Irish sprinter of Nigerian origin narrowly missed out on a podium finish at last year’s world championships in Budapest, having also run 49.87 in the semis.

In Nassau, Adeleke took her sprinting genius to another level. After running a fine 49.64s and 49.48s split to help the Irish mixed 4x400m and women’s 400m, she took the baton on the second leg in the final in fifth place. With the crowd cheering all night, Adeleke turned on the afterburners. Her reputation for dazzling performances preceded her, and true to form, Adeleke blazed through her 400-meter split with lightning speed, etching her name into championship history at the World Athletics Relays in the Bahamas.

Irish Mixed 4x400m Relay team, photo by Francesca Grana for World Athletics

This marked Adeleke’s inaugural senior championship medal, a remarkable achievement that surely foreshadows more to come for the 21-year-old. With her stunning performance, Adeleke ensured that the Irish quartet sensationally concluded their Nassau campaign, clinching the bronze medal in the mixed 4x400m event after an exhilarating showdown against powerhouse teams like the USA and the revered Netherlands.

Adeleke’s split time of 48.45 seconds set a new benchmark at the World Relays, outpacing even the reigning Olympic 400m champion, Shaunae Miller-Uibo from the Bahamas (49.54), and the reigning World 400m champion, Marileidy Paulino from the Dominican Republic (48.93). It was also faster than Femke Bol, the Dutch world indoor record holder, who crossed the line in 49.63 seconds, narrowly edging out Sharlene Mawdsley for the silver medal by a mere 0.08s.

“I really appreciate my team-mates. Cillín gave it to me in a brilliant position, so I just took that and built on it,” said Adeleke, the Dublin athlete further stamping her authority on one-lap running. Her Irish record of 49.20 from June of last year is her next obvious target.

“I just wanted to try my best to put Tom in the best position going forward. I was able to catch a couple of people, and I knew Tom would be able to hold it and that Sharlene would finish well. And honestly, I’ve been to many championships, and this one has the most energy; the people were so loud.”

Adeleke’s resilience and ability to dig deep in difficult circumstances, especially when the odds are against her is another attribute that makes her special. At last year’s NCCA final, she displayed remarkable resilience as she dug deep, battled fiercely, and ultimately outpaced race favorite Britton Wilson, who had bested her in the NCAA Indoor title earlier in March 2023. When the Dublin native crossed the finish line in an impressive 49.20s, she secured victory. She etched her name in history as the first Irish athlete in 17 years to claim an individual NCAA Division One title.

Rhasidat Adeleke won the 2023 NCAA 400m title in an Irish NR, photo by How Lao Photograpy

At that moment, Adeleke stood alone, basking in the spotlight and separating herself from the pack, ahead of the athlete many hailed as the most thrilling talent in US track and field. Now, after her feat at the world relays, there is no doubt that she is now one of the most thrilling talents in world athletics.

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