Rhasidat Adeleke: ‘I’m Always Thinking About So Much More Than Myself When I Step On The Line’
We caught up with the sports star this week
Rhasidat Adeleke is one to watch.
The Dublin athletics star has been smashing records left, right, and centre since she first took to the international track stage back in 2017.
Earlier this month, she announced her decision to go professional ahead of the Olympics next year, a move you’d expect would be dominated by intense training, media appointments, and a newfound pressure.
In fact, Rhasidat says: “It’s been pretty chill.”
“I do worry sometimes. Things aren’t always going to go your way, but I always remind myself that I’m so blessed to have these opportunities. You need to get organised and let it be, and try not to stress about the little things.”
Rhasidat was the first ever Irish woman to break the 50-second barrier in the 400 metre dash. As it stands, the 20-year-old holds a staggering six Irish national records, and has represented her country many, many times. Her career so far, has “been amazing.”
“It’s been really great to see so many athletes competing on the global stage, and fellow Irish people too. We’re all out here creating a name for ourselves and showing that we are here to compete,” she says.
“You’re running for so much more than just yourself. I run for Ireland, I’m representing my country and I want to make my country proud. I’m always thinking about so much more than myself when I step on the line.”
Rhasidat is foregoing her remaining eligibility to turn professional, but not because she’s afraid she’ll get injured. Because she wants to keep winning – right now.
“I want it today and I want it tomorrow, so I have to do it now,” she says. “I just want to achieve as many accolades as I can, because I won’t be running forever. Once you start winning medals, and you’re consistent, you gain confidence. And that confidence can be additional pressure but it also helps you be more prepared.
“I talk to my friends [about that] a lot. A lot of them are athletes too so we go through a lot of the same things. We reassure each other. They’ll be like ‘remember this thing you said to me when I was having a bad day?’ I’ve learned to take my own advice and see past the stress.
“You’re not as important as you think you are – that can sound awful but a lot of people feel pressure over the expectations of other people. You think people hold you to a certain regard and expect you to achieve certain things, but at the end of the day if you haven’t achieved them, people move on. They’re not thinking about you every second of every day like ‘Oh god Rhasidat didn’t win’. People aren’t that obsessed. If it doesn’t go well, move on, and if it does go well, enjoy that moment.”
Rhasidat’s professional career begins amidst the excitement and furore of the World Cup, which kicked off in Australia last week. This is the first time in over two decades that an Irish national team has made it to the competition – a huge achievement that has not gone unnoticed among football fans, and supporters of women’s sport in general.
Next week, Ireland play Nigeria in their third match, a game that Rhasidat is particularly excited for given her Nigerian heritage. “It’ll be really cool to see that,” she says. “I’m supporting both personally although I might have a bias because I know a lot of the players on the Irish team. It’s going to be an amazing game to watch.
“I follow a lot of the players on Instagram and we comment on each other’s posts. I haven’t met a lot of them yet, but we’re all high performance athletes and we support each other. Some sports are so male dominated, like football and rugby, and it’s easy to be overshadowed but I love the amount of attention the women’s football team is getting. They deserve it, they’ve made it to the World Cup. What an achievement.”
But it’s not just sport that Rhasidat wants to be known for. A few weeks ago, she signed a major sponsorship deal with Nike, a move that she knows will further enhance her track career but also showcase her personality – and her love of fashion and beauty.
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“I want to show that I’m more than an athlete so I integrate my interests into my sport,” she says. “I like to have my hair done and my makeup done in a race. It’s about ‘look good, feel good’ for me, but you’re also pulling in people from different walks of life who maybe aren’t fans of athletics. It creates more visibility.
“That video of [sprinter] Sha’Carri Richardson throwing her wig off at the start of the race was posted everywhere. It got millions of views from all these people who don’t watch athletics, but now they’re interested. People are out there showing their personalities and different aspects of their life.
“Not everyone can be signed to Nike, so I feel like people respected my level as an athlete more when they saw that. It’s a different ball game, and it’s really helped get my brand out there. I’m not just an athlete, I’m interested in fashion and modelling too.”
It’s been a stellar few years for Irish women in sport. With increased visibility comes inspiration, and more and more young girls pursuing sports like football, rugby, swimming, and track from a young age. Rhasidat says she hopes these young girls stick with sport in school – not just to win, but to change their lives.
“It is life changing, it changes the way you look at things. Aside from the physical benefits, sport is so much more than that. It was always something to do besides just going to school, it takes your mind off things in regular life. I’d advise all young people, especially girls, to stick with it if they play and to not just be in it for succeeding and the competitive part, but to also know that they’ve got so much more to offer.”
Rhasidat Adeleke is an Allianz Ireland ambassador and Irish record holder. With just over one year to go, Rhasidat has her sights set on Paris 2024. Allianz Insurance are proud to be global and local partners of the Olympic movement as they continue to support Irish athletes, inspiring them to write their own future as Allianz underwrite it.