12 years on: Remembering Olusoji Fasuba’s World Indoor Champs victory in Valencia
On a cold night at Valencia’s Palau Velodromo Luis Puig, March 7, 2008, Nigerian sprint legend Olusoji Fasuba produced a characteristically brilliant performance at the 60m final of the IAAF World Indoor Championships to clinch the win and become the first African title holder in the discipline at the indoors.
Having set the current 100m African Record of 9.85s roughly two years prior to that night, Fasuba’s remarkable win in Valencia further affirmed his place in Africa’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
The speedster eased through the heats and even went ahead to set a then World Lead (WL) of 6.51s in the semis, but securing the title in the final was a completely different ball game. As he readily admitted, he had to endure pain in his calves as he took the lead midway through the race up till the finish line.
“At about 40 metres I had the lead, but I got some cramps so I knew I had to fight more,” Fasuba said.
“I think I kind of missed a step at about half way and got a little cramp, but said ‘No, this medal is yours, you’ve got to push. And it’s not going to leave you anymore.”
He however fought the little ache and managed to equal the WL 6.51s he ran in the semis, beating competition from Kim Collins of St Kitts and Nevis and Britain’s Dwain Chambers who came 2nd & 3rd respectively having clocked same 6.54s. Compatriot Uche Isaac finished 6th with 6.63s, but notably made history alongside Fasuba as the first and yet only time a Nigerian pair made the final of the event at the indoors.
“I did 6.51 easy in the semis, and we all thought it was going to be 6.4 in the final. But the final is always more tense, and we know anything could happen. They were fast starters and I had to keep up with them because my reaction time was not that quick. But I had a good turnover and I knew it was going to get better.”
Twelve years on, Fasuba remains the only African athlete to have clinched the 60m title. Infact, the closest an African has come to clinching a medal since Fasuba’s win was when Zambia’s Gerald Phiri clocked a National Record (NR) of 6.52s to place 5th in the 2014 edition.
Meanwhile, the new crop of speedsters the continent has showcased over last 18 months have shown great promise. The likes of South Africa’s Akani Simbine who’s currently ranked 3rd in the world in the 100m, Divine Oduduru who clocked an impressive PB of 6.52s in Texas just about a year ago, Ghana’s Arthur Cisse and young prospect Raymond Ekevwo can make Africa dare to dream again.
Looking from the Nigerian perspective, Usheoritse Itsekiri (10.02s 100m PB) and Enoch Adegoke (10.12s 100m PB) are also two serious prospects who can put in a good challenge on the 60m dash track.
Possibly this latest flurry of talents can put Africa on the world map again, just as Fasuba did.