WRITTEN FOR ATHLETICS WEEKLY MAGAZINE
Having switched to compete for Nigeria just fourteen months ago, Tosin Oke has witnessed a dramatic improvement in his form this year, which culminated in collecting an impressive Commonwealth triple-jump victory last week, writes Nicola Bamford.
Following years of frustration with the Team GB selectors, the 30-year-old Woodford Green with Essex Ladies athlete leapt 17.16m in the second round in Delhi to capture his first major championship gold.
Despite suffering five invalid jumps in his six-effort series in the final, his second-furthest leap to date was enough to ensure the Londoner he had made the right decision by representing the country of his parents’ birth.
Indeed, 2010 saw the 1999 European junior champion pass the elusive 17 metre mark for the first time in his eleven-year career with 17.05m at a British League match in Hendon back in June.
Evidently a new athlete of late, Oke progressed to register 17.22m when claiming the African title in Nairobi the following month to go tenth on the world list for this season, ahead of placing sixth in the IAAF/VTB Continental Cup last month (with 16.72m).
“It’s been a long season so I’m glad it’s over,” Oke admitted. “Winning the African championships was bigger than the Commonwealths for me.
To jump 17 metres feels great - it’s been a long time coming after my first breakthrough 10 years ago. I’ve finally managed to activate it inside me and worked out how to get the best out of myself.”
Born in England and with most of his family currently living in Nigeria, Oke revealed: “I made the switch after watching the TV too many times thinking I should be there so I made the change and the common-sense decision worked.
The African people are very welcoming – they call me ‘Mr Brit’ and ‘King of England’ and it’s so relaxed, it’s a great environment.”
Following a surprise party at his house to celebrate on his return to Blackheath, Oke – who failed to make the World championship final on his debut for Nigeria last summer – is currently enjoying a training break and is back to working part-time as a personal trainer and as ambassador for Mettrack.
The time off is proving a relief, too: “I’ve had a really bad sciatica problem in my right hamstring since December and I’ve been struggling with it every single day,” Oke explained.
“Luckily, my sponsorship with Red Bull has really helped as it’s a stimulant - it relaxes the muscle and takes the pain away. I know it sounds crazy but I wouldn’t have been able to jump without it – I can’t straighten my leg on the jump phase.”
Coached by Guy Spencer at Lee Valley, Oke also leapt 7.10m for the long jump and rather than competing indoors over the winter, intends to iron out the issue whilst training under 1995 World indoor champion Brian Wellman in Bermuda en route to the World championships next summer (in Daegu, South Korea) as a new be-medalled and much happier athlete.