TEGA ODELE: FROM BENIN TO BEIJING TO BRAZZAVILLE TO RIO
Tega Odele is the National Sports Festival Champion over the 200m . He was a bronze medalist at The 2015 All-African Games and he is also the 2015 National Champion in the 200m. Tega Odele chats exclusively with ‘Athletic Heat’ as he talks about his journey from Benin toBeijing and Brazzaville, the Rio Olympics amongst other things. Read on!
So what was your childhood like? Was it sport inclined?
Yes it was. I started running like when I was in primary school but I
started running like 1500m, 5000m, 800m and then when I got to
secondary school. You know how housemasters and housemistress would behave, so I started running from 100m to anything that was runnable
So when you started athletics where your parents in support of it?
Yeah, they were in support of it right from primary school because we
were always going for competitions and they would always take me to
school early so I could meet up with training so I felt they were
supporting me and by the time I was thinking of getting spike shoes it
wasn’t a problem when I asked for it.
So what propelled you to go into athletics?
Well for me I have been running for a long time like from Primary
school the normal interhouse sports thing and then when I got to the
university, I saw a couple of guys training and I said I would beat
all these guys here but I did not put my mind into the training and
then my brother told me that there was a NUGA competition in 2011 and
Uniben was going to host and there were going to pay money for the
running and he said like 40,000 naira and I was like, just to run? He
said YES! So I went to the sports complex and I met a coach which is
also my present coach and I told him I wanted to train and it was the
same thing I was telling him for weeks but I never showed up till the
day he told me that I say I want to train but he never saw me. So from
that day I became serious and since then it’s been history.
You graduated from The University of Benin as a champion in the
National University Games (NUGA) over the 200m, 4x100m and 4x400m races. Can you share how you were able to combine education and sports?
Whatever you want to do come with sacrifice and it wasn’t as if it was
all rosy. They were days I had to train really very early, I mean
really early and some other days I would train really late but at the
end of the day, I still had to go to class, read my books and what my
parents sent me to do was to read my book, so there was no way I would
go back home and tell them because I am doing athletics that’s why I
didn’t perform well and besides anything you are doing, you would want to do them very well. So basically, I sacrificed time for both the
reading of the book and also for training.
Your trip to Beijing was like your first race on the big stage. How did you feel competing with the best in the world?
I was relaxed. For me, it was ‘’Guy just enjoy the moment’’. Haha.
Just for me to put up a good race and try to do something really
awesome. So that was what I went out to do because I wasn’t in anyway
scared. I just feel like most of the time when you are running on that
kind of level and beat those guys, your name will be all over, so who
wouldn’t want to beat them. Like I said, it was just for me to go out
and put up a good race and it was a very nice experience and it was
So what’s your source of inspiration?
For me, I look up to everybody, from world class athletes to
footballers, movie actors. I mean! Everybody who I doing well in this
world is a mentor. I feel if there could come from a low ground and
then be where they are today is a source of inspiration to me. Some
days it could be from my team mate or my neighbor.
The Olympics in less than 3 days and bearing in mind, that you have run the standard three times and you have been listed by the AFN, What should we expect from you?
I am looking at putting up a really good show. Run fast times and it’s
all about bringing out the best when it matters most. Just like the
last World Championships, Nicholas Bett that won the 400m hurdles.
Nobody knew this guy, when they counting medal hopefuls he wasn’t
even listed or even thought of making the finals but he took every
round step by step and at the end of the day, he went home with a Gold
medal. So I feel I will just give in my best, stay healthy and try to
put up a formidable race and that what really matters most.
Can you tell us about your story, from Benin to Beijing to Brazzaville?
When you are doing a business, you would like to take it global. So I
feel that literally explains my story from Benin to Beijing to
Brazzaville. It was a really awesome year, it’s not as if the year
started like everything was going to happen, there were ups and downs
but at the end of the day I was able to come up with a really fast
time. Even at a point when I felt the show was almost over because it
was the last race of the season and it was not like I was going to run
another race after that. So I thank God for it.
So can you share some of your short term and long term goal in generally?
I am thinking of starting my master’s degree but I am trying to give
the sport my whole time especially this year. I would have started
like last year because I have had scholarship, offers but I felt
like the Olympics is coming, Why don’t I take out this year to prepare
because it’s not easy reading and focusing on the training. So I
decided to dedicate this year for purely training because I feel if I
can run fast times at the world class level, run at the Diamond League
just to give hope to the young ones and probably when I want to stop
athletics, I could go into something else but anything that would make
me relate to people, is all I want to do. And after my master’s
degree, I would want to do a Ph. D.
Do you feel that home based athletes could actually match up with the
foreign based athletes in all events bearing in mind that we don’t
have the same facilities as they do.
People are working hard. For me, it’s not where you are that matters
but it’s how fast you can go. If you are here and you are making it,
good for you and if you are outside there and you can go really fast
then it’s good for you as well but at the end of the day, it’s about how
fast you can go. Even there, they are some guys that are fast while
some are not at all. And the truth of the matter is that everyone
believes we are all the same and you won’t want someone to come and
beat you and if home based perform well, nobody would say ‘’Oh! This
athlete come and represent us because you are foreign based’’ and
that’s why there is a trial.
I could remember there was a time when, foreign based would come and
they would beat all the athletes here and a time came when everything
started changing and I feel this year was like that.
Lastly, so what can you say to your fans reading this interview?
It’s not going to be easy but when it’s looking like nothing is working
for you, then I think that’s the time you should stay stronger because
you never l know what will come your way. So every day keep putting
your best in what you do and it will definitely pay off one day but if
you are not prepared for that moment, you may not grab that
opportunity. So keep up with the training, so when that moment comes
you will be able to perform. Sticking to dreams pay off because it paid
of for me and a couple of other athletes I know. An example is Orukpe
(Erayokan) I saw him when he was injured, abandoned but he is still
doing very well. Last year he did a 44s but if he gave up, I am not
sure when the moment came for him to run a 44s he would have been able
to run it.
Thanks for your time. I wish you the very best at the Olympics.
Thanks. I appreciate.
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