Sitting on the sofa at home, my heart was beating in my throat. My nerves had been on edge for the last half hour or so and I was unable to keep still. I was conscious of not being able to concentrate on anything for any length of time, flicking from television screen to laptop, from the drink in my hand back to the TV. I felt giddy with excitement and anticipation. And all the time, I was aware of just how ludicrous this was. The outcome of the race had no bearing on my life, future, past or present. This was an inexplicable tension, yet one that I relished and actually enjoyed. It is a rare feeling for the body to feel exhilarated and yet be in no danger whatsoever.
Silence. A sharp clap issues from a starter’s pistol, followed by wave upon wave of cacophonous noise, camera flashes and an atmosphere bordering on mass hysteria. Yet at the heart of all this, the eye of the storm, eight men focus on a rapidly approaching point in the distance, and visualise the making of history. 9.63 seconds after the silence was broken, the crowd in the Olympic stadium rise as one to applaud and appreciate the athlete who holds the most prestigious and coveted title in the world; the man who wins the Olympic 100 metres. The fastest man on the planet.
Sprinters captivate the imagination of a disparate and sprawling collective global imagination. They possess a perfect cocktail of biological and physiological excellence. The fast twitch muscle fibres, foot speed and adrenaline in a top sprinters body serves to remind us all that we are human, and they are something else. Superhuman? If Channel 4 is to be believed, that’s exactly what the athletes taking part in the forthcoming London 2012 Paralympics should be regarded as.
As part of our very own Paralympics coverage on Blottr we were lucky enough to grab a moment with one of Team GB’s up and coming stars. Ola Abidogun. Hailing from Bolton, Abidogun is a sprinter who showed genuine pedigree in the junior ranks, and faces a step up in class against the world’s finest at his home Games. Taking gold in both the 100m and 200m at the World Junior Championships in 2010 and 2011 proves he is a man with a taste for winning, and running personal bests in both his disciplines this year suggests Abidogun might just be hitting form at the right time. We spoke with Ola about his goals, changing attitudes towards disabled sport and how he hopes to produce a performance befitting of the grandest of stages.
Congratulations on making Team GB's Paralympic squad. How do you feel about having the chance to showcase your talents on such a grand stage?
I feel that with my first games being in London and the Paralympics coming home, the stage could never be grander. With the crowd hopefully with me I can show my talents and give a performance befitting of this massive occasion.
Last year, Channel 4 described your performance at the Paralympic World Cup as having announced the arrival of 'a new GB sprint star'. How has the last year gone for you?
This year has been truthfully the best year of my life. I’m not only faster than I was last year, but also stronger, smarter and more experienced . Things which were having negative effects on my performance have changed or are gone all together. As a person and athlete I have improved in every way possible
You compete in both the 100m and the 200m. Of the two, do you have a preference, and which would you say is your stronger distance?
I would say the 100 is my preference and ever so slightly is my stronger event. Though I’m less experienced with the 200, it is quickly becoming my favourite event of the two.
Do you have a set goal for these Games? What would constitute success for you?
No. I don’t set goals for championships due to the unpredictability; it's the world stage and anything can happen. I would constitute success to be any performance where I can soundly say I did my best. Naturally my main aim is to win but i would rather not put unnecessary pressure on myself.
We heard a nice quote of yours; 'It's not about the disability, it's about the ability'. Are you happy with changing attitudes towards disabled sport or do you think more can be done to change attitudes?
Yeah, I’m very happy with the changing attitudes but I’m hardly satisfied. There will always be a small minority who don’t value disabled sport but i think we as paralympians are also to blame by not putting ourselves in the media as much as we can. Things are rapidly changing though, so I’ll likely say something different next year...
What would be your advice to aspiring young athletes that suffer from a disability such as yours?
I would say ‘You’re not disabled, there is nothing you cannot do. There is just another way to do. Never let your disability stop you doing anything because you still have the ability.’
Aside from sprinting, are there any other sports you would like to try or think you would excel at?
I would love to try fencing, not that I think I would be particularly good at it, but who knows? I think it would be great to try, it’s a pretty unique sport.
How does your funding situation work? Do you train full time or do you work and fit your training around that?
The funding system works (in terms of) performance; the better you do, the more you get funded. I personally have trained full time for this year, but that will change in September when I start university.
Outside of yourself, are there any athletes or events that you can't wait to see?
I really want to see the swimming and the sitting volleyball. I once tried sitting volleyball and I personally think it is one of the most difficult sports in the games.
How has becoming an athlete affected your life since you took it up seriously?
At the start it was hard because i was young and there were things which needed to be given up, like time. You quickly become very busy but it never gets in the way. Becoming an athlete ultimately really only has positives. You’re always healthy, you get to meet amazing people just doing your job and it makes you very organised which is never bad.
If you could meet any Olympian or Paralympian past or present, who would it be and why?
I would love to meet Dick Fosbury. Before I was a sprinter I was originally a high jumper. Dick Fosbury was a man who changed the whole way high jumping is done.