Former UTEP national champion Tobi Amusan overcomes hurdles with eyes on Olympic gold


EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – The 2020 Olympics officially begin Friday, July 23, in Tokyo, Japan, but they’re off to a bumpy start after a pair of athletes already in the Olympic Village tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.

It will no doubt be a Games unlike any other, but former UTEP track & field star Tobi Amusan is still hoping it’ll be an Olympics to remember. A legitimate medal challenger in the women’s 100 meter hurdles for her home country of Nigeria, Amusan is going to Tokyo with one thing on her mind: gold.

Five years ago, Amusan was anonymous when she stepped onto the track at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for her first Olympic Games.

“Nobody knew who I was,” she said. “I wanted to be at the Olympics and I was there and it was like, ‘yay! I did it.'”

A lot has changed since Rio.

Amusan won the 2017 NCAA national championship at UTEP in the 100m hurdles, and has gone from an unknown commodity, to one of the top sells in the women’s 100m hurdles at the Tokyo Olympics.

“Since 2019 it’s always been, ‘oh Tobi is always a medal contender,’ but this year I don’t just wanna be a medal contender, I want to be a force to be reckoned with at the Games,” said Amusan.

The Nigerian is eying gold, and she has every reason to do so. Entering the Olympics, the hurdler is ranked in the top four in the world in the 100m hurdles, making her a legitimate threat for the top spot in Tokyo.

Lacena Golding Clarke: “She has goals, and the goal for her is winning the Olympics,” said UTEP assistant coach Lacena Golding Clarke, Amusan’s personal coach and a three-time Olympian herself with Jamaica in 1996, 2000 and 2004. “I’m hoping that in the next few weeks, UTEP, El Paso, and Nigeria can have an Olympic gold medalist.”

The lead-up to the Olympics has been challenging. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the Games back a year, then at the Nigerian Olympic Trials in June, a clock malfunction robbed Amusan of what could’ve been a world-leading time entering the games.

“It took me over 48 hours to get over it, but I’m still mad at the whole situation because they deprived me of a lot of stuff just by not setting it up for me to get a decent time,” she said.

Now, it’s all behind her entering Tokyo, and with the help of Golding Clarke, Amusan is at the top of her game.

“I’ve had so much experience from (running in the Olympics) and it’s made me the coach I am today,” said Golding Clarke. “I’m just here to facilitate and help her get to where she wants to be.”

A semifinalist in Rio in 2016, Amusan knows anything can happen at the Olympics. This time around, she’s betting on herself to make it happen.

“It’s about who comes to the games and shows up and goes off,” said Amusan. “This year is about how God has done the work, now prove yourself to the world.”

Amusan will begin her run for gold with the prelims of the 100m hurdles on Saturday, July 31. The semifinals will be on Aug. 1, with the finals one day later, on Aug. 2. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics can be seen in its entirety on KTSM from July 23-Aug. 8.

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