A woman who was born in Chicago and lives in Houston is competing for Nigeria in the 2012 Olympics. So here’s how that happened.
“It was kind of asking around,” Moriam-Seun Adigun says.
Adigun, 25, is an assistant track coach at the University of Houston. In the ’80s her parents moved from Nigeria to Chicago to chase the dream, and when it came time to choose a school, Adigun knew she had to go someplace warm.
“The 2005 winter in Chicago, I can vividly remember walking down the street and it was snowing, and the wind was blowing so hard I couldn’t open both my eyes at the same time,” she said. “I was so mad at the wind that day. I told myself, ‘You have got to get out of Chicago for this training, because if you stay here there’s no way you’re ever going to be a stellar athlete in track and field.’”
She was a fine hurdler at the University of Houston, qualifying for NCAA nationals in the 100-meter hurdles in 2008. She’s tough, too. She’s run through broken toes, a broken leg and a heart condition that has required multiple surgeries. Good enough and tough enough, she thought she could make the 2008 Olympics.
With dual citizenship in the US and Nigeria, she chose her parents’ home country hoping to shine a positive light on a place that doesn’t get much good press. She just fell just short.
“I was a few inches off of a few hurdles away from breaking through,” she said.
Then came the devastation and the doubt. What does a 22-year-old hurdler not quite good enough to make her Olympic team do?
Go to grad school, she thought.
“It was so easy for me to be so down and disappointed,” she said. “I said to myself, ‘After my senior year, I’m done. I’m going to go to grad school and start becoming someone that’s doing muscle testing and bio mechanics. I’m gonna be cool.’”
But the dream wouldn’t be choked out that easily.
“God had a different plan for me,” she said. “He was like, ‘You thought you were done didn’t you?’”
So Adigun kept running. And a funny thing happened: She kept getting faster. There is always something, she says, that can make you faster. A little tweak here, an adjustment there. Little unnoticeables that can get you over a hurdle and back down to earth again that much faster.
You can call it technique, but that’s not what Adigun calls is.
“There’s always that little ounce of hope in being a hurdler,” she said. “It just takes one little thing to click.”
Eventually the little things added up, and Adigun turned in a time at the 2008 Conference USA indoor meet that turned some heads. Adigun suddenly had a world ranking next to her name.
LATEST OLYMPICS NEWS
- Team USA routs Britain in exhibition
- Rafael Nadal pulls out of games
- Train drivers threaten 3-day strike
- Sex in the Olympic Village?
- UK border guards to strike
When she came back to the University of Houston the next week, a hall at the track facility was filled with hand-made posters celebrating her achievement. That’s when it hit her. She could do this.
“It read, ‘Not just in the city, not just in the state, not just in the conference, No. 14 in the world,” she said. “It sunk in at that moment.”
By the time the Nigerian Olympic trials came around, Aadigun had been an African champion in 2010 and an African Games champion in 2011. She was the favorite.
Then came the stress fracture. She still doesn’t know when it happened, although doctors told her she could have been running on it since as far back as last fall. In April, doctors told her she couldn’t run anymore. Trials were in June.
Then she missed her flight to the trials. She arrived in Nigeria three hours before prelims. She called it a lucky break that went straight to the finals, which were the next day, but she was still a hurdler who hadn’t hurdled in two months and didn’t know what kind of shape she was in at the moment she put her feet in the starting blocks for the biggest race of her life.
“I was on the line and, I was like, ‘Welp, God, here we go,’” she said.
You know the rest of the story. She made it, and she’s headed to London with the rest of the Nigerian Olympic team, ready to run the 100-meter hurdles. Her personal best time is 12.8 seconds, which doesn’t make her one of the favorites. But she’s there.
And that’s how a Chicago-born daughter of Nigerian immigrants living in Houston ended up on the Nigerian Olympic team.
It just kind of worked out (finally).
“It did,” she said. “I’m so happy it did.”
We enjoin our readers to send their stories/articles/reports, including pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org