POSTPONING the 2020 Olympic Games was a necessary evil that disappointed nearly everyone on the planet.
Olu Olamigoke is the rare exception.
The 2008 Mountain View High School graduate has dual U.S./Nigerian citizenship after his parents emigrated here from Africa in 1986. He represented Nigeria in 2016, placing 32nd in the men’s triple jump, and had his sights set on doing so again in Tokyo this summer.
In January, though, Olamigoke tore two ligaments in his ankle while training, severely jeopardizing his chances of competing this summer. So when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the International Olympic Committee to announce a one-year delay in the Tokyo games, Olamigoke took it as a rare bit of good news.
“I’ve been really quiet about it lately. I understand what’s going on in the world. … But it seems like the stars have aligned for me at the right time,” he said in a recent telephone interview.
“It was the strangest turn of luck. About 4–6 weeks after I was injured, the pandemic kicked in, and they postponed the Olympics. That has never happened in history, and It happens the one time I needed it to happen. That’s pretty auspicious.”
Olamigoke now lives in Atlanta, where he and Brooke Point High School graduate April Sinkler both train under coach Dwight Phillips. He last competed internationally in 2017, but he started ramping up his training last fall and was encouraged by his training progress--until his injury,
He recently shed his cast and has begun walking without a limp.
“I had a moment last week where I realized I’m definitely making progress, regaining the feeling in my body,” he said on Monday. “For the layman, I’m at about 80-90 percent normal. As an athlete, though, 80 percent isn’t normal.”
His career best leap is 55 feet, 8 inches at the 2015 African Games, where he won the silver medal. At age 29, he feels capable of surpassing that when healthy, thanks to an improved diet and the coaching of Phillips, a four-time world long jump champion. . “I started taking better care of my body, eating better, and my body responded in kind,” he said.
Nigeria’s Olympic selection process is different from the U.S. Trials. If he is healthy and in top form next summer, he is likely to be selected for Tokyo.
“I don’t believe in getting complacent,” he said. “I was selected for the African championship team in 2018, but I decided not to go. It’s been four years since I wore the Nigerian singlet. I think people still know me and respect me, but I’ve got to restake my claim.”
Whenever the Tokyo games are held (if they are held), they’ll likely be the final ones for Olamigoke, who aspires to become a personal trainer himself. He’s established his own YouTube site, “No Donuts ’Til Tokyo,” to encourage viewers to improve their lives, whether they’re athletes, students, parents or just regular citizens. The title refers to the comfort food he has forsaken in his quest to be his best.
That pursuit has helped him mitigate self-quarantine cabin fever. Thanks to his injury, his isolation started a couple of months before most people’s.
Said Olamigoke: “All the boredom that everyone else is experiencing now, I went through it in January and February.”