Golden girl Rhasidat target of social media racist trolls

'This is a wake-up call for our legislators and those who govern Irish sport'

by Rose Barrett
0 comment

Not since Sonia O’ Sullivan’s achievements on the track has so much attention focused on a single female athlete as it did last week when Tallaght woman Rhasidat Adeleke stepped onto the track during Roma 2024.  And yet following her amazing medal count and performances last week, she became the victim of a minority but vicious racist trollers online. Sport Against Ireland (SARI) claim this is not surprising at all, simply because she is black.

The organisation joined with Taoiseach Simon Harris in denouncing the racist attacks but stated it was largely “unsurprised that one of Ireland’s magnificent young athletes, Rhadidat Adeleke…..has suffered racial abuse online.

“It is shocking that one person – the only black member of a wonderfully talented team of athletes – can be targeted in this manner. This is a wake-up call for our legislators and those who govern Irish sport. Unfortunately, SARI having worked on the frontline of diversity and inclusion for decades, has little confidence that institutional Ireland will set about tackling this threat … in anything like the profound manner needed.”

It noted that for some time, the signs of increased racism and an underlying hostility “towards a more diverse Ireland has been evidenced and a greater stand is needed to encourage multiculturalism.”

10 June 2024; Women’s 400m silver medallist Rhasidat Adeleke of Ireland celebrates with her medal during day four of the 2024 European Athletics Championships at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Let’s recap the full extent of Rhasidat’s performances last week; with a gold in the mixed relay final, she stepped onto the track for the final of the 400m ladies event, and we hoped, dared to hope she might be a medal contender. At 21, she is still fine tuning her craft.

Over 569,000 TV viewers held their breath and screamed as she broke swiftly from the trap, willing the Tallaght runner on as she hit the final straight in the lead. I screamed and danced with joy; yes she was caught in the last 10 metres by Polish fancied Natalia Kaczmare.

But Rhasidat had arrived and put Ireland back on the map in terms of serious competition on the track. The green singlet would be worn on the medal podium yet again in these European Championships and there was still the women’s relay contest to come.

The excitement watching her – and knowing there’s more to come! The young Tallaght woman also broke yet another Irish record, and we cheered and danced as she wrapped the green, white and gold flag around her. I’m a short, freckled, roundy, ageing Irish woman and my God, the pride I felt in watching this Irish sister carrying our national flag, with her striking good black looks, her dreadlocks and her Tallaght accent. 

And then came the women’s four x 400m relay final which saw Rhasidat join team-mates Sophie Becker, Phil Healy and Sharlene Mawdsley. Apart from Phil Healy, those surnames are hardly traditional Irish names. Did it matter as they all ran incredibly and held off stiff competition to take a silver and break another national record. More talented Irish women, the pride of the nation and proudly wearing the Irish singlets.

But then last week – always from the minority – racists trolls struck social media and attacked our super star, Rhasidat. The Gazette is not going to share or repeat the venomous tweets here, not when we are so proud of her, proud for her club in Tallaght, her family and community in South Dublin. She too should be proud of her Nigerian background, her heritage and her Irish upbringing.

Her coach  Edrerik ‘Flo’ Floreal told Q102 Radion that the remarks gave her the worst hurt ever.

‘She was really in a dark place when she read those things on the internet. She doesn’t cry ever, so when she cries it’s like, ‘oh my God’, so that bothered her more than I ever thought possible but I just let her handle it.’

Coach Flo believes it is something his talented protégée may have to tolerate in the future.

Rhasidat Adeleke, long may your success on the track continue, you have the support of the vast majority of your fellow Irish, sadly just a minority of neanderthals who carry such a vicious streak.

Related Articles