Tobi Amusan in the sprint hurdles at the Olympic Games (© AFP / Getty Images)
Tobi Amusan (NGR)
African and Commonwealth 100m hurdles champion
I started the hurdles by chance. I went to a meeting aged 13 or 14 intending to compete in the sprints and long jump only to realise by the time I arrived, the only event remaining on the programme was the hurdles. My coach encouraged me to enter and I ended up winning, which is how my hurdles journey began.
I continued to do sprints and long jump for a time but also squeezed in one hurdles sessions a week – where I put cones and tyres down on the track to jump over because we had no hurdles in my home city.
I continued to perform well but what propelled me into hurdling full-time was that it was tough to make national teams for the sprints, so I decided to enter the hurdles at the Nigerian Trials for the African Junior Championships. I won and I went to Ethiopia in 2015 100 percent focused on hurdles. I won African junior gold in Addis Ababa and from that point on there was no looking back – I was a hurdler.
The hurdles is such a spectacular and unique event – different to a regular sprinting event. For me, there are three phases in the hurdles, that first seven or eight strides which helps provide the foundation for your race. The next phase is the three strides between each of the hurdles and finally the mad dash to the finish line from the final hurdle.
So what do I really enjoy about the hurdles? Well, I enjoy many components including that sweet sound of clearing the hurdles. The hurdles is a rhythm event and I love reaching that rhythmic state where your mind, body and soul is in total tune with the event.
I like the fact that hurdles is such a technical event. When completing drills it requires total focus and discipline, components which shape you not only as an athlete but away from the track too.
Hurdles requires problem solving skills - you need to be swift thinker. If you hit a hurdle you need to think what you need to do to quickly restore balance to get back into a good rhythm.
I also don’t think there is a track and field event which can teach humility quite like the sprint hurdles. You can be the fastest in the field but one mistake can spell the end for your race. A hurdler should never go into any race with any level of complacency or arrogance. It teaches you to be humble.
Yet, I would also say with the hurdles there needs to be a certain fearlessness too. You cannot have a negative approach. You need to believe you will clear all of the hurdles and cross that finish line - and this is another reason I like the event so much.
Steve Landells for World Athletics