14th July 2020
OLA ABIDOGUN TALKS LAW, LOCKDOWN AND LIFE BACK IN ATHLETICS
Ola Abidogun was all set for a tilt at making the British team for the Paralympic Games in 2020. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has altered plans, but the Bolton-based sprinter now has eyes on set 2021. We caught up with Ola on how he’s adapted over the last few months, and also looking back on the last decade which saw him win a Paralympic bronze medal in London, step back from the track to embark on a degree and career in law, and then return to the top of the sport in 2019.
Last year, Ola Abidogun was back in a British vest lining up in a World Championship final, five years after his last international appearance for Great Britain & Northern Ireland. He ran a personal best of 10.92 in the semi-finals before finishing sixth in the final in 10.98 – the first two times in his career that he had dipped under 11 seconds. His adulation was clear to see as he came off the track and he was truly in the best shape of his life.
Rewind the clock to the back end of 2014 and Ola was in quite a different position as he had the choice between continuing with athletics or focus on a law degree which would prepare him for life after the sport. Law was one of two careers Ola always had an eye on since he was young. The other was medicine, an occupation his sister practises in.
After a conversation with his family, his coach and Paula Dunn at the time, Ola made the decision to step back from the sport to give his 100% commitment to his studies at Nottingham Trent University.
“I did my law degree. I spoke to my parents, my coach and Paula and we agreed it was more beneficial for me at that time in my life to get my degree done and then go back to athletics. The degree was a one and done, whereas success in athletics could take another 10 years so it was a better decision to do my degree then, rather than doing my whole athletics career and then starting my studies.”
It certainly paid off as Ola graduated in 2017 with a second class honours and started his career soon after, last working for ‘myhomemove’ as a property conveyancer. After taking up the job – which he has now left to focus on his athletics -his commute from Bolton and Manchester made it “trying” and it was tricky to fit athletics in following a day at work which ran from 7 till 6 including the commute.
However, his hard work and perseverance contributed to his best ever year in the sport in 2019 as he reached the world final in Dubai.
“The world champs were good for me. I went in not really expecting too much because I was only just coming back onto the scene.
“It showed me that I am still relevant. I have a few things to work on, but it showed me that I am not a million miles away, I’m a lot closer to it than I was when I left.”
It has been quite a journey for Ola who started casually in the sport, originally doing the high jump, before he was encouraged to try the sprints at the age of 15.
“I started out in high jump. That’s what I was discovered for. Paula (Dunn) looked at my running times and thought they were good, so after a conversation with my coach I started sprinting and stopped jumping. I don’t think I could go back and do it now.”
That led to a career in sprinting which saw him go to his first major competition in 2010 – the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Call-ups to British squads soon built up and following his bronze medal in the T47 100m in London 2012, he sealed silver at the IPC Europeans in 2014.
Due to the recent lockdown conditions, “pure straight-line sprinting has taken a hit”, but he’s been training on hills and steps and in the woods as he’s adapted under the conditions.
Away from training he’s been learning Japanese and also doing community outreach work when possible at a food bank run by the church in Manchester which he has carried out over the last few years.
But as he switches attention to the possible return to competitive action later this year and in 2021, Ola is looking to go even quicker and earn his spot on his second British team for a Paralympic Games.