Breaking 400m world record is my dream – Odeka

Nokai Origin

Nigeria’s quarter-miler, Gerald Odeka says his immediate aim is to be at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio but his life time ambition is to beat the 400m record set by Michael Johnson of USA with the best of 43.18.

Gerald has been on an intensive training program at the Abuja national stadium ahead of the Nigerian qualifiers for the Olympic Games and his immediate dream is to make the cut for the games.

Voice of Nigeria sat in an interview with this ambitious Nigerian athlete to know more about his life on and off the track and these were his responses:

Gerald please tell us about your background?

I am from a family of 3 children, 2nd boy and second born. I was born in Lagos and grew up in the same. Schooled in Ibadan and I came to Abuja 2005 for the first time.

Basically I have always had this flair for athletics so in my secondary school they encouraged us to go for one competition or the other to show more of what we have to offer in terms of skills and afterwards I got admission into University of Benin, and came out.

In 2005 I came to Abuja and in the stadium here I was approached by one of the Civil Defence official then to run for them for the arm forces games

that was held in Owerri, Southern Nigeria in 2005 and I accepted. The outcome for me was great and tremendous because it was my first year. Sincerely speaking it was my first year seeing a track and I was very happy running for an organization that will pay me and at the same time give me job. Since then I have been working for civil defence and its over 11 years since I have been with them.

Since 2006/2007 till date I have been getting medals for them. In 2007 I was the 200m Champion in the Abuja Area Council Games

[ARAC} and I am still the defending Champion for the games that was held in the country in that year but my Coach Gabriel Okon said I can do better than where I was then and I said okay. He trained me in 2013; I made it to the world championship that was held in Moscow, Russia.

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Please tell us, how does your normal day routine go as an athlete?

I wake up in the morning as early as 6am, I lie down for few minutes before 6:30am when I wake my kids, bath them while my wife goes to the kitchen. That is how we do division of labour at home. After bathing them and dressing them, they eat their food and they leave foe school. By 7.30am we {my wife and I} are out of the house coming to the stadium to train. I live in zone 7, Wuse {Abuja}. We walk all the way to finance junction then we take the pedestrian bridge and after that we get a cab going to Area 1 then stop before the National Hospital, and walk all the way down to the stadium.

More than half of the journey to the stadium, we walk that’s how much love we have for the sport, because if there is no love, passion or zeal for what I do, I think I would have stopped. It’s not just coming here, some people actually come here to keep fit, and for me it’s not all about keeping fit it’s beyond that. I come to train, to enable me perform better, and try to be better than the rest. In as much as I train, I know that there are people all over the country, all over the world who are also training hard if not more than me, so I have to train even harder everyday so that I can be in the world record list.

 When you get to the stadium what kind of routine do you do before you start running?

As an athlete you should know that the first thing to do is what we call warm up, jugging and running on the track, maybe 2 or 3 times to get warmed up and sweat a little bit. Then you go down to the exercises, the stretches then you start what we call drills. These are all different segments of the process. Then you start your program for the day depending on the discipline you are running.

 Professionally, which other competition have you participated in, any outside the country?

Yes…. when I started athletics 2005, I started with 100m and 200m but I was better in the 200m because of the way I run, so my coach Gabriel Okon ( aka king daddy) converted me and said I will do better in the 400m  because of the way I run and that’s the discipline I run presently. He added that with the way I run the 400, when I put the same approach in the 200m, I will do much better. My first outing for Nigeria was in 2013 in Moscow (Russia) for the world championship. Although I didn’t run, I made the relay team. Unfortunately we crashed out in the semi-final but I was not able to run again because I got injured and was unable to make the team again.

I was injured in 2014 which deprived me of making the team for the commonwealth games. 2015 I resumed training gradually and it was another world championship which I missed out. But this year (2016) is the Olympics and I thank God that the injury (Ankle injury) is gone and am not feeling any pain again. As you know there is no small injury in sports, the one you feel is a small injury can end your career that is why you have to be cautious. Get treatment when you get injured and if your doctor says you should lay off for the year so that you get better, you do. Because when you get better, trust me there are many more races for you to run, records to break and in no time you will be there. So instead of having that little injury, even if you are in top shape, you still need to take better care of yourself. As an athlete an injury can put an end to your career and the only thing you may be able to do as afterwards is maybe you end up going to coaching course or something just to compensate yourself.

 What has been your best performance so far?

In 400m, the best I have ran is 47.18, which was in 2013 in Benin {Nigeria}.

Those athlete that have not had the opportunity to attain the height you have attained so far, what is your advice for them?

My advice to them is they should believe in what they do and aspire for greatness, it is not all about coming to run or represent or present yourself as a runner, it goes beyond that, you must know what you are doing and where you are going and like they say, the sky is your stepping stone. In my own level, I know I have not gone to the Worlds but currently I am aspiring to enter that chart.

So for up comers, if they want to aspire to be where I am right now, it is good but they will need to do more when they get to this level and even better. I want to do better than the person that set the world record in 400m that is Michael Johnson of USA with the best of 43.18 and I want to do better than that. So if I am aspiring for that, someone coming behind me should aspire to do better too.