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On her marks: Rhasidat Adeleke graduates as hectic summer of action awaits

University of Texas graduate believes she has the ability to take on the best athletes in the world as the Paris Olympics looms large

This is an apt time for reflection on another week in the life of Rhasidat Adeleke. Suitably fast and ever progressive. No looking back, only on towards bigger and more exciting things.

From the World Athletics Relays in the Bahamas, where over two days she enjoyed a graduation of sorts by helping Ireland seal two Olympic qualifications and win bronze medals, it was straight back to Texas to enjoy her graduation in the finer educational sense.

Both equally big deals for the 21-year-old Dublin sprinter.

In the Bahamas, her 400 metres split time of 48.45 seconds in the mixed relay was the fastest ever recorded at the World Relays, faster on the night than the reigning Olympic 400m champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo from the Bahamas (49.54), reigning World 400m champion Marileidy Paulino from the Dominican Republic (48.93) and world indoor record holder Femke Bol from the Netherlands (49.63).


Straight after that came the week-long commencement ceremonies at the University of Texas at Austin, Adeleke joining their famous sporting alumni that includes basketballer Kevin Durant and golfer Jordan Spieth, and also actors Matthew McConaughey and Jayne Mansfield.

“It was like a whole week of ceremonies, one for international students, one for the track and field team, one for the college you’re in, then overall for everybody,” says Adeleke, who was joined by her mother Ade, brother Abdullahi and sister Latifah.

“I was supposed to graduate in December, but I just took more classes, so that I could graduate early, so it was really fun. And it is equally important, track isn’t going to last forever, being able to continue being successful elsewhere, post track, is definitely my goal.”

Her degree is in Corporate Communications, and she’s already thinking about a MA in Finance in another year or so. Only for now, everything is building towards the Paris Olympics, so far falling neatly into place.

“It definitely took me by surprise,” she says of that 48.45 second split.

“I was in a heavy training cycle, had a fast session of 200s on the Thursday and that whole week I’d been doing a lot of sessions. The first 4x4, I went in a little scared, I didn’t know where I was going to be. Then to split a 49 and then 49 again and went faster again, and it helped build my confidence.”

She’ll bring that confidence into this Saturday’s Los Angeles Grand Prix meeting, moving down to the 200m to face-off against the leading trio of US women: Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the world record holder in the 400m hurdles; Gabby Thomas, who won Olympic bronze in Tokyo, and Abby Steiner.

“The past couple of weeks have given me confidence that I can compete against anybody in the world,” says Adeleke, who also ran a wind-assisted 10.84 seconds for 100m the weekend before the Bahamas.

“Once you have confidence, I feel like you can take anybody down. My goal is to go in there open minded, don’t be scared of any big name, don’t give them too much respect.

“In the past, at Worlds in 2022, when I was competing against Shaunae Miller-Uibo, I kind of let her go because I felt like she was supposed to be in front of me. She’s world champion, Olympic champion, she’s faster than me, she’s supposed to be ahead. But sometimes, don’t give them too much respect and let them run away from you. I’m going to go in there open minded and see what I can do. I surprise myself every time.”

Speaking via Zoom from her training base in Austin, Adeleke also references the enduring confidence of her coach Edrick “Flo” Floréal; “Honestly, Flo was like ‘why are you surprised? I hate when you do that, don’t act all surprised because you know that you can do this’.

Over the weekend, former world 400m record holder Michael Johnson also posted on X that “Track is in pretty good hands the next few years”, listing “Rhasidat” among the names of the next generation.

“I think I am growing as an athlete, getting out there more, and I definitely appreciate that,” she says. “There are so many spectacular athletes in this sport, so to be able to be recognised as one of the up-and-coming athletes to look out for, that definitely gives me some extra motivation, to make sure I live up to that.”

At next month’s European Championships in Rome, she’ll run either the 200m of 400m, and while her individual schedule will likely force her out of the mixed relay, her inclusion in the women’s 4x400m is certainly possible.

As for Paris, coach Flo is unwavering in his prediction: “He thinks I can medal, for sure. He always says, ‘this is what we need for you to get this medal’.

“He definitely thought I could get a medal at last year’s Worlds as well. Honestly, he thinks that if the Worlds were even two weeks after NCAAs because I was in really, really good shape in that period [running 49.20].

“I definitely thought I could still medal, but I just didn’t have it then. But he still has that same ambition for me, so hopefully this time around we’ll be able to achieve it.”

– Rhasidat Adeleke is an Allianz ambassador for the Stop The Drop campaign, encouraging participation in sport as students transition from primary to secondary school.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

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