Meet Elizabeth Ndudi - continuing the golden generation of young Irish athletes rising to the top

18-year-old makes history becoming the first Irish athlete to win European U20 gold in a field event

It came as no surprise that Elizabeth Ndudi, speaking in advance of this week’s European Under-20 Championships in Jerusalem, referenced Rhasidat Adeleke as an inspiration, both in terms of where her own athletics career was at and where she hoped it would go.

Still only 18, Ndudi was already a rising prospect after winning Irish senior titles in the long jump this year, indoors first and more recently outdoors, before on Thursday morning she made another giant leap in becoming the first Irish athlete to win a field event gold medal in the 53-year history of these U20 Championships, which started in 1970.

It was at these same championships in Tallinn, two years ago, when Adeleke further marked her potential, winning a brilliant 100m-200m sprint double, also at age 18, before making giant strides this year in the 400m.

For Ndudi, the gold medal in Jerusalem delivered on her own high hopes and expectations: “To get a place on the podium, that’s certainly my goal,” she said beforehand, after improving her lifetime best to 6.44m in Mannheim back in June. “I’ve broken my best twice this season, and I think improving on my technique as well.”


With that she produced a brilliant round of jumps at the Givat Ram Stadium in Jerusalem, setting a personal best in the second round of 6.48m, before improving to 6.56m in the third round. By the end, just 6cm had separated the top four, with Bulgaria’s Plamena Mitkova taking silver with 6.54m and Germany’s Laura Raquel Muller winning bronze with her lifetime best 6.51m.

That 6.56m performance also moved her second on the Irish all-time list behind Kelly Proper’s national record of 6.62m, set indoors back in 2010.

“I’m in shock, I’m amazed how well the event went for me,” Ndudi said. “I was confident in myself coming in here but it’s a huge improvement and to do it in such a high competition makes the national record so special.

“I really focused on my mental preparations as well as the physical side coming in here. I made sure to really get in the zone in the morning and evening before sessions. Last year I was a bit nervous and I think that’s why I didn’t post a big jump but today I came in here full of confidence, so I was mentally prepared”.

Born in Dublin, her mother of Irish-Dutch parentage, her father from Nigeria, Ndudi started athletics while at primary school at St Attracta’s in Ballinteer, south county Dublin, also joining up with Dundrum-South Athletic Club at that same time, where her talent was further nurtured.

Then the family moved to Nantes in France in 2016, when Ndudi was aged 11, and in recent years she’s been coached by Julien Guilard at Racing Club Nantes AC.

Her school days in Nantes now complete, she will also follow Adeleke into the US collegiate system, starting later this month at the University of Illinois. The head coach there, Petros Kyprianou, is known for his expertise in the long jump, with Ndudi admitting that was a big part of her reason to pick the school.

“He’s coached lots of jumpers who have participated in the Olympics, I’ve only heard great things about him, and when I spoke to him, and I said my goal was to make the Olympics, he said that would be his goal too.”

Ndudi has also been mixing things up with the sprint events too, also running lifetime bests in the 100m (11.83) and the 200m (24.43) this year.

She first made her mark on the international stage last year, finishing seventh at the European Under-18 Championships, also staged in Jerusalem. Her brilliant win brings to 24 the number of medals Ireland has won at under-20 level, going back to John Treacy over 5,000m in 1975. But hers is the first gold in any field event – one of five gold medals in the last two editions alone. The golden generation is indeed rising.

Ireland’s European Under-20 medal winners

1975 John Treacy – 5,000m silver

1985 Nick O’Brien – 3,000m gold

1987 Barry Walsh – decathlon bronze

1991 Mark Carroll – 5,000m gold

1993 David Matthews – 800m bronze

1997 Gareth Turnbull – 1,500m bronze

1999 Ciara Sheehy – 200m bronze

2003 Joanne Cuddihy – 400m silver

2005 Colin Costello – 1,500m gold

Danny Darcy – 1,500m silver

2011 Ciara Mageean – 1,500m silver

2013 Sarah Lavin – 100m H silver

2017 Gina Akpe-Moses – 100m gold

Michaela Walsh – hammer bronze

John Fitzsimons – 800m bronze

2019 Kate O’Connor – heptathlon silver

Darragh McElhinney 5,000m bronze

Sarah Healy – 1,500m silver

2021 Rhasidat Adeleke – 100m & 200m gold

Cian McPhillips – 1,500m gold

Nick Griggs – 3,000m gold

2023 Nick Griggs – 3,000m silver

Elizabeth Ndudi – long jump gold

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics