More people are starting to take notice of Dublin sprinter Rhasidat Adeleke

The American scholarship route is working wonders for the Dublin sprinter, who is still only 20

The American collegiate indoor season opened with a bang at the Albuquerque arena in New Mexico last weekend, one of the standout runs coming from our own Rhasidat Adeleke, who straight away continued her brilliant record-breaking form from last year.

In the rarefied altitude of Albuquerque, more favourable for the shorter sprint and jump events, she improved her own Irish indoor 200 metres record, set inside the same arena last year, to 22.52 seconds, actually faster than her outdoor record, also well inside the World Championship qualifying standard for Budapest later this summer.

Still only 20, in her third year at the University of Texas, Rhasidat is fast improving and edging closer to winning an individual NCAA title, her best effort so far individually being fourth over 200m indoors in 2022, plus team gold in the relay outdoors. Already it seems 2023 is shaping up to be a stellar year for Rhasidat, and more people are duly starting to take notice.

It’s a reminder, too, that the top of the class of 2018 from the European Youth Championships in Gyor in Hungary is progressing nicely, five years down the track, each one moving forward at different rates while also taking their own path.


Sarah Healy has already been to the European Championships, World Championships, the Olympics and World indoors taking the home-grown path at UCD and stepping straight into the senior ranks.

Already it seems 2023 is shaping up to be a stellar year for Rhasidat, and more people are duly starting to take notice

Rhasidat is taking the progressive route through that American NCAA system, where you get to race consistently at a very competitive level, also in an arena with athletes of similar age and development from junior to senior rankings.

For whatever reason, Rhasidat was sadly and wrongly left off the Tokyo Olympic team in 2021 by Athletics Ireland, at a time when she had the opportunity to experience all the hype of the Games in a low-pressure situation on the mixed 4x400m relay squad.

Still, she showed her complete class and maturity last past summer, firstly at the World Championships in Oregon, helping Ireland reach the final, then backing it up individually with a fifth-place finish at the European Championships over 400m, running a new Irish record of 50.53 seconds out of the unfavourable lane one.

From my own experience development isn’t always an easy path: my daughter Sophie was another of the Gyor medal winners from 2018, and only now with steady progression at the University of Washington is she starting to find some of her youthful form again with two recent personal best times over 800m and one mile. It will be interesting and exciting if one day these three young achievers will be all back together again on the Irish senior team, which chances now are they will.

It’s taken Sophie five years to make that next breakthrough with a new personal best, I always say it can take seven years for a young athlete to reach their true potential and step out and compete on the world stage at the highest level.

There are many hurdles and ups and downs along the way. With persistence, no matter what path an athlete takes, once they see some light in the distance the motivation energy and belief returns. Not everyone gets a smooth run from a young athlete with potential to stepping up and finding a way to deliver on that youthful talent.

The NCAA system can be cut-throat, and no more so than qualifying for the indoor finals. It’s all down to fast times and every week the top lists get shuffled around and the standards also increase every year. What would qualify a year ago across all events is not guaranteed to get you to the Big Dance, as they like to call it, one year later.

One reason for this is the changing rules for NCAA athletes and also the extra year that many athletes were given back due to the Covid-19 affected years.

For the first time in NCAA history, athletes now have opportunities through the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rules, which allow athletes to earn monetary payment for use of their name, image or likeness when they endorse products. Before, they could get all the free gear they needed, but not receive a single cent.

This can’t in any way be linked to a performance or to attract an athlete to sign for one college over another, but it does mean each student athlete can develop their own personal brand just like any non-student athlete. It’s also designed to keep the student-athlete in college throughout their degree, rather than turning professional after just one or two years.

It also means the doors have been opened for athletes to generate some revenue that they would otherwise have to put on hold while staying in college for all four, five or even six years to finish out their collegiate eligibility.

As a result, collegiate athletes tend to be a few years older, more mature and athletically developed by the time they arrive on the world stage. So the performance curve is also continually being pushed to a higher level, as the top colleges hold on to their star athletes for as long as they can, many returning after already competing on the World and Olympic stage.

The difficulty with the changes in NCAA rules is for the young athletes coming in, it can take up to two years to breakthrough and make the step up to just qualify and compete at the NCAA finals.

When superstar young athletes are relegated to not even making finals, it can be difficult to adjust and be patient, but as more and more coaches realise, this can ultimately help the athletes be stronger.

In my opinion, there is no greater place to serve an athletics apprentice than through the American college system. The money invested in each student athlete varies across each college, but then you add up the academic costs, living expenses, the gear, the shoes, the facilities, the medical back up and the travel to events, all in that natural team environment.

Most of those athletes probably don’t know or appreciate the value of a US athletics scholarships until they are graduated and have to fend for themselves. Then, looking back, they wish they had known what they had, and realise how well protected they had been inside the college system.

There are some more transitional options now for athletes going from college teams to professional teams, another big change and transition that you need to prepare for as the years slip by.

For now, those new NIL opportunities give athletes a glimpse of the professional world, and a link to real-life decisions. It opens the eyes sooner to a transitional plan out of college to the next stage, helping athletes to navigate those next steps as smoothly as possible.