Rhasidat Adeleke: ‘Gold, I think everyone wants a gold medal’

The Texas-based Dubliner has a solid programme of events in place as she continues preparations for the 400 metres at the Paris Olympics this summer

Towards the end of our conversation the question turns specifically to Paris. The last thing Rhasidat Adeleke needs any reminder of is how fast the Olympics are approaching – “I think time is just always flying” – and inevitably other things around Paris are coming into focus too.

So if, or when, just over five months from now, Adeleke is looking back on Paris, what would she consider a successful Olympics?

“A medal,” she says, without hesitation.

And what colour?


Which does draw a moment: “Gold, I think everyone wants a gold medal.”

Adeleke is in her usual pleasant and upbeat form. Speaking via Zoom from her training base in Austin, Texas it’s evident the final parts of her journey to that 400 metres in Paris are already in place.

She’ll open her outdoor season later this month at the famed Texas Relays, take in the World Relays in the Bahamas in May to help the Irish team secure their Olympic qualification, then consider a number of events at the European Championships in Rome in early June.

Despite fresh flashes of her record-breaking form – over 60m, 200m and 300m – Adeleke admits too that any lingering fear of missing out on last weekend’s World Indoor Championships in Glasgow is quickly tempered by what’s fast coming down the tracks.

“It was up in the air, because I was still in a big training cycle, then me and my coach [Edrick Floreal] just decided it’s best to keep training ahead, get some more work in, instead of taking a couple of weeks off to taper.

“Because the outdoor season starts so quickly, we have Texas Relays, we have some other meets starting up, so we just want to best prepare ourselves for the season, keep getting that hard load in, until you have to taper for those continuous meets that are going to happen this summer.”

It’s exactly one year on since Adeleke finished second in the 400m at the NCAA Indoor Championships, a defeat which she said motivated her to raise her game for the outdoor season, which is exactly what she did, winning the NCAA outdoor title in June with that sensational Irish 400m record of 49.20 seconds.

That time would have won her the silver medal in Tokyo. Again, Adeleke needs no reminder other things have moved on significantly since. Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo from the Bahamas, plus runner-up and last year’s world champion Marileidy Paulino from the Dominican Republic, will likely be the athletes to beat again, and that’s before Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone from the US makes her presence felt too (thankfully for some, Dutch star Femke Bol is sticking to the 400m hurdles outdoors.)

Though still attending classes at the University of Texas and set to graduate in May with a degree in Corporate Communications, her decision to join the pro ranks last summer and signing a Nike deal, has afforded her the chance to work on more technical aspects of her training.

“I think time is just always flying, the older I get, it just goes so quickly. Sometimes when I get memories on my phone or may camera roll, I’m like ‘I can’t believe that was a year ago’.

“But I still go to school and everything, so that’s all the same as last year. I just have more to do, and more responsibility too. It’s just about allocating that time successfully and being intentional with my time, and not spend too much time on things that aren’t benefiting me.

“I definitely miss the team aspect in Texas. But I’m still here, I didn’t have to make too many adjustments. I’m still in school, I’m still seeing my team-mates at the track. I wasn’t thrown into the deep end having to move coaches or to a different state.”

Adeleke admits too she didn’t watch much of Glasgow, beyond catching some social media posts of the fifth-place finishes, for Sarah Lavin in the 60m hurdles, and the women’s 4x400m replay, plus Sharlene Mawdsley’s widely considered harsh disqualification after qualifying for the 400 metres final.

“Honestly I actually don’t really watch track and field that much. I definitely was tuned into the Irish, and some of my team-mates, looking up the results and videos and stuff.

“I know it was really hard to see some of the Irish, like Sarah [Healy] fall, then Sharlene being disqualified, because making the world final is so huge, then to be disqualified is so unfortunate. But then the relay team did really well too. And Sarah Lavin as well, so I think it was a decent, pretty good championship overall.”

It’s no secret Adeleke had some physical issues by the end of last season, making her fourth-place finish at the World Championships in Budapest perhaps more impressive.

“I’m way better now,” she says. “It was just a lot, last season, coming to the end of it, a lot of wear and tear. But I’m feeling good now, training is good, so everything is pretty good.”

She did roll her ankle the day before her sole individual 400m race in Albuquerque, at the end of January, which she carried into the Millrose Games in February, where she lost out in the 300m to her old collegiate rival Talitha Diggs.

“Yeah, that was annoying, I wanted to do another 300m. But he [coach Floreal] was like, ‘no, we’re going to shut it down and see what you can do when it’s time for people to see’.

“It’s a learning experience, I really wanted that win in New York, but it’s just part of the game. I have other times to prove myself.”

And with that all our thoughts turn specifically to Paris.

– Rhasidat Adeleke was speaking at the announcement of a new partnership with KPMG, joining Irish golfer Leona Maguire and leading Irish jockey Rachael Blackmore as their sporting ambassadors.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics