Feature10 Mar 2014

Omo Osaghae: the Red Raider roams afar


60m hurdles winner Omo Osaghae at the 2014 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Sopot (© Getty Images)

The men’s 60m hurdles winner Omo Osaghae really came to win out of the blue.

A few weeks ago, he didn’t even know there was going to be an indoor season for him and now he is the world indoor champion. The 25-year-old from Lubbock, Texas, where he attended both high school and Texas Tech university – nicknamed the Red Raiders, and Osaghae was fittingly decked out in red in Sopot – has won three US indoor titles in 2011, 2013 and 2014, but Sopot 2014 was still his first major intenational competition.

Osaghae, whose father was Nigerian, continued a US winning tradition in this event at the World Indoor Championships, his being the 10th title for USA in 15 editions of the championships. Previous champions were Tonie Campbell (1987), Roger Kingdom (1989), Greg Foster (1991), Allen Johnson (1995, 2003, 2004), Terrence Trammell (2001, 2006) and Aries Merritt (2012).

“It means a lot," he said. "Coming from a university [Texas Tech] we call ourselves the Hurdle U as we produce so many All-Americans, so being able to uphold the tradition there and being able to be a representantive for the school and for the US here is beyond me."

Despite being a top hurdler in the highly competitive US collegiate system, stepping to the top of the podium is actually something of a new achievement for Osaghae. He was part of four NCAA finals during his time at Texas Tech, he was the runner-up in the indoor 60m hurdles in 2009 and then third in 2010.

Outdoors, Osaghae notched up two seventh-place finishes at the NCAA Championships in 2008 and 2011, and his best performance at the US outdoor championships is sixth place last summer. Little more than 18 months ago, he didn’t get beyond the semi-finals of the US Olympic Trials for a place on the plane to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The past months have not been easy for Osaghae, whose outdoor personal best of 13.23 dates back to 2011.

The latter part of his 2013 season was hampered by injuries and delayed his preparations for the 2014 season.

“Coming off last season, I was very injured. I got hurt on my left achilles and right foot. The indoor season started very late for me, I had to rehab pretty late and I started working out in the middle of December. We were just trying to get ready for outdoors and my coach (Dion Miller) was like, 'you have nothing to lose, you might as well go to the US Championships'.

“We were just happy to go there, he was able to come and coach me on the Sunday. We knew that we could put something together, at best a good product, but to be able to win the US Championships and now the gold here is just incredible and I’m just happy to be here.”

Allen Johnson, at the traditional pre-championship press conference, reflected on the fact that a new generation of hurdlers is starting to emerge, including the young French silver medallist in Sopot, Pascal Martinot Lagarde, and it was a theory Osaghae concurred with.

“I haven’t been professional very long and I think he (Martinot Lagarde) has been longer. It’s always exciting and envigorating when we get to run against somebody who is very passionate about what they do because I’m exactly the same way,” added Osaghae, setting the stage for the summer when he hopes to challenge members of the old guard like his compatriots David Oliver, Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson, the winners of the past three outdoor global titles over the barriers.  

Mirko Jalava for the IAAF

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