TALLAGHT AC’s Rhasidat Adeleke was a hugely deserving Irish flagbearer at the closing ceremony of the European Youth Olympic Festival in Azerbaijan as she won the 100m and 200m sprint double.
She stormed home in first place in the 100m in Baku, crossing the line comfortably in a time of 11.70 ahead of Johanna Klymanen (Finland) and Cheyenne Kuhn (Germany).
A couple of days later, she added the 200m in a time of 23.92, going faster than the 24.36 she posted in the qualifying round and beating Hungary’s Mira Koszegi into silver, Serena Kouassi (France) rounded off the podium with bronze.
Speaking about winning a double gold, she said: “I’m just so happy. It was kind of a late decision to do both events, I was only meant to do one event, so to come away with the two gold is so unexpected. I’m just so happy. I just tried to have a really good bend, really fast, and just hold it for the last 100m. And I kind of felt like I was clear, so I was delighted.”
Reflecting on the ground-breaking week, she added: “I was just really satisfied to win both golds; to win both, the same colour medal, it is just such an accomplishment. It’s unreal and I am just so happy. After the 100m, it definitely motivated me even more to go for the double. And doing it was a dream come true.”
It continues her rapid rise since taking up the sport in her primary school days before joining an athletics club when she was in sixth class.
“I did everything – distance and throws – but when I was 13, going on 14, I decided to stick mainly to sprinting while still doing a little distance and long jump. But winning that silver medal EYOF 2015, when I was 14 going on 15, I knew I needed to definitely stick to the sprinting. That kind of drew the line under that! This is easier!”
Nowadays, she trains pretty much everyday with gym sessions on Mondays and Fridays and track sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays with competition taking place most weekends.
She said that silver medal in 2015 did create a level of pressure on her to try and mount the top step of the podium. But it is a pressure that she relished when she hit the track.
“I had pressure from the outside, but also from myself. I do feel like I need pressure to be able to perform and that’s what I needed.”
And it was made extra special as members of her family and teachers from her school made the trip to Azerbaijan to take in her success.
“It’s unreal. It was amazing to be able to see them live and capture their emotions after the race after they travelled so far to see me race.”