Olympic and Commonwealth Games men’s 100m finalist Enoch Adegoke, 22, talks about his childhood, athletics career, missing out on the podium at Tokyo 2020 and more, in this interview with ABIODUN ADEWALE
Can you tell us about your journey into athletics?
My journey into athletics started from my primary school days. I’ve been a lover of sports since then and I represented my school in relays up till my secondary school, before I eventually joined the school athletics team at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
My parents and school teachers discovered the talent, and thank God it was nurtured because I participated in lots of events as a child. For instance, in my primary school, I wasn’t arguably the best because there were lots of senior pupils ahead of me. So, for some parts I trailed, before I stood out. In my secondary school as well, same thing, but by the time I ran the last race for my secondary school, I was arguably the best sprinter. The likes of Alaba Akintola and other guys I can’t remember their names now, were all my classmates and colleagues.
Give us a lowdown into your family and educational background.
I am from a Christian family; my parents are pastors Rev (Dr) and Mrs. Nathaniel Adetunji Adegoke. I have four siblings and I am the second child. I went to St. Mary’s Catholic Nursery and Primary School, Igbeti. Then most parts of my secondary school days were at the Federal Government Vollege, Ikirun. I also attended Ajegunle Baptist College in Ogbomoso. Then as you know, I went to Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, where I studied Geography.
As a child, which Nigerian sprinter or sportsman inspired you, while growing up?
As a child, I didn’t really know much about Nigerian sprinters. But when I got admission into OAU, I heard of Seye Ogunlewe and Soji Fasuba. Ogunlewe was the reigning national champion then. Along the line too, I heard of Seun Ogunkoya and they all became part of my inspiration for everything they did then. At OAU, I won so many medals, from NUGA to WAUG, and other inter-collegiate games.
You themed your career ‘Running by Revelation. How did you come about this?
I am a believer; I’m a lover of God and I know there is nothing I can do without the help of God. So, ‘Running by Revelation’ basically translates to running by the help of the spirit. When I started running, I prayed for the help of God’s guidance, these were the words I got from the spirit and I held on to it.
From your social media posts, one will be curious to know if you are a church boy or a staunch believer in God…
(Cuts in) Even though I grew up in a typical pastors household, because my parents were pastors, I not just a church boy or pastor’s son, I’m a strong believer in God, not just because my parents brought me up that way, but because I have a personal relationship with God.
I’m always proud to say that when I got into OAU, when I started attending BSF (Baptist Studeynt Fellowship), and at the same time when I met my spiritual father, who doubles as my pastor, Pastor Adigun Oyewole, my spiritual life was serious. So, I’m not just a church boy, I believe in God.
You were on the biggest stage in the men’s 100m final at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. What went through your mind as you lined up for sporting immortality?
After the semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics, when I got back to the warm-up pitch, I didn’t even know how I could express myself. But I remember coach Kayode Yusuf (Ese Brume’s coach) was like, ‘Enoch it’s like you don’t really know what you have just achieved’ because I didn’t even know how to react but I knew I just broke a particular record or a jinx or something. Every sportsman’s dream is to be able to participate at the Olympics, which is the apex. SO, I felt great, I felt this could only be done by God. So, a lot of things were going through my mind but I was like let me do this, let me do that.
You pulled out of the 100m final with injury, midway into the race. The fight for the medals was evenly poised before then. How did you feel?
First, I felt something in my thigh and I knew I had to stop running. In my mind, I felt disappointed but I’ve always learnt about situations you cannot do anything about. Grabbing a medal would have been heroic, but I know there will be some more Olympics.
What impact has the Olympics had on you?
The Olympics has had a huge impact on me, that anything is possible through diligence and by the help of God.
You’ve been missing in action for a while. What happened?
I went through a lot this year, injuries amidst some other issues. Basically, I was actually injured for most part of the season and I had to deal with a lot of things as well. But thank God I’m fine.
How did you handle things during this trying period?
First, I’d like to thank God for strength to handle the situation, because without God I don’t think I could have gone through those stages. There were periods in which the devil wanted to weigh me down with a lot of things, but then God promised me strength and he gave me strength. Secondly, I’ll thank God for the gift of men. I have men around me, talking about my coach, Ayokunke Odelusi. I was actually with him all through those periods. I was in his house, and trust me, he was my coach, my psychologist, my physiotherapist, my masseur. He was just there. My pastor was alway there too, taking me through the spiritual steps of getting myself to normal. And my very good friend and my babe, she was always encouraging me with hours of talks and prayers. And I have friends around me who were there for me during the period, from those in athletics to those who are not even athletes. I just have a lot of them. Sometimes, we train together, sometimes we stay on phone, encouraging me that things will be fine.
You know having a circle of friends that know what you are going through and can bring you out of the situation is very important. In situations like that, you can’t be all alone, you definitely need people around you. And these people were there for me. And to myself, I’d love to thank myself as well. There were periods I had thoughts of calling it quits and all, but thank God I was able to hold on.
Did you watch this year’s World Athletics Championships and the Commonwealth Games? What feeling did you get as an athlete?
I watched the World Championships and Commonwealth Games, and Nigeria’s performance gave me a positive feeling that there are better days ahead. And again, Tobi Amusan lifted the spirit of all Nigerians and personally, I was inspired. It taught me that things might be dark and slow, but there will be light at the end of the tunnel.
You ran 9.86secs in the 100m at the Olympics. Are you gradually getting back into that kind of form again?
I believe I will keep getting better and there’s always room for improvement.
How soon should Nigerians expect to see you in action again?
I can’t say there is a timeframe for me to return to the tracks now. But I know when the time is right, I will be able to compete, hale and hearty again. I’m not rushing myself and I’m not putting myself under pressure, I know I’ll be back stronger better by God’s grace.