Sunday, June 07, 2009

Remember the name: Oluwasegun Makinde

It would have been nice to be among the lucky few who got to cover Oluwasegun Makinde's big weekend on the track at Varsity Centre in Toronto.

A lot of high school athletes break two records at the provincials. With Makinde, you picture his fellow runners being doubled over gasping for air like the cop character played by Seth Rogen in Superbad ... "He's a freak. He's the fastest kid alive." Friday, Makinde became the first Canadian high schooler to ever go under 13.5 seconds in the 110-metre hurdles, running 13.36 to break the record by almost a half-second. You have to feel for the runner-up, Gregory MacNeill from London Mother Teresa, who became the second Canadian high schooler to run a sub-13.5 110 hurdles ... and lost. On Saturday, Makinde ran the second-fastest 200 metres by a Canadian high schooler (20.99 seconds). He was only four-100ths of a second off the 25-year-old record held by Atlee Mahorn, the former Olympian.

By all indications, there's going to be a day when high school records seem like pretty small cheese to him (case in point: Makinde passed on the 100 metres since he'll run it an another event). This is a Canadian summer sport athlete whom one hopes will get the economic and personal support he needs to realize his potential as a hurdler or sprinter. It is also a thrill as a journalist to have been able to chronicle his progress back in 2008, when at age 16 he was already assured enough to say the O-word, Olympics.

Makinde on track to accomplish great feats (May 15, 2008)
Oluwasegun Makinde is just scratching the surface.

The Colonel By standout is gunning for an OFSAA gold medal this spring to add to the one he won in the junior boys' 200 metres in his hometown last June.

"I've come pretty far," Makinde, 16, says matter-of-factly. "Last year, I was able to win OFSAA and represent Canada (at a world youth meet in the Czech Republic). In the two years since I was in Grade 9 just starting out, that's a pretty big improvement. I'm just hoping it continues."

Specifically, what would that involve?

"Hopefully, the Olympics and world championship," he says.

Makinde, who trains under Glenroy Gilbert with the Ottawa Lions, has a skill set to pursue sprinting, hurling or long jump — his coach wants to "spread him out," take it slow and learn what best suits the athlete. Still, when a young man who's still in Grade 11 runs a wind-aided 10.68-second 100 metres, as Makinde did at the National Capital Classic last week, it's hard not to feel excited for him.

"It's really hard to tell how good Segun will be at this point, because it's fairly early," says Gilbert, the Olympic gold medallist and newly minted member of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. "Like I always say to Segun, half the battle is surviving, having a good time, learning how to execute when it counts. You can always do things in practice when you're on the track alone ... He's talented from the standpoint that he can pick up things fairly easily.

"It's a little too soon to tell, but if you look at the charts, he's definitely on the higher end."

There's a second Makinde burning up tracks in the capital, too. Tolu Makinde, 14, has flashed some potential as a Grade 9 this spring. He broke two of his brother's Louis-Riel Dome records during the indoor season and proudly notes he set a meet record in the midget boys' 400 — that one was also Oluwasegun's — at the University of Ottawa Invitational two weeks ago.

"Tolu will say, 'I'm going to beat you,' and I say to him, 'No, you're not,' " Segun says.

The brothers count on each other.

"If one of us goes down, we're not afraid to step down and help the other person," Tolu Makinde says. "I mess up a race, he's going to be there for me. He messes up a race, I'm going to be first person to tell him, 'Hey, you mess up a race, there's always going to be another race.' "

Oluwasegun Makinde will still be a junior at the national level for two years beyond this summer. Gilbert, who has his protege on a path toward the 2010 world junior championships in Moncton, notes his role as a coach with the Lions is to keep Makinde "on pace with his development."

"He wants to be good, there's no two ways about it," Gilbert says. "He's intense — I keep telling him he can relax sometimes."

That seems easier said than done when you're known for being the fastest one around. It's still fresh in Makinde's mind what it was like to win at OFSAA last year, beating his rival, Phillip Hayle of Brampton.

"It was a pretty big feeling," Makinde says. "There were a whole bunch of people I knew there because it was in Ottawa, a lot of teachers of mine came out. It was a feeling of relief because I did it."

No doubt he wants to keep experiencing that feeling this spring and beyond.
(There's a story to be had about about the bargaining high school coaches have to do when they have great athletes who have commitments to their club programs.

Makinde likely would have broke Carlton Chambers's Canadian intermediate 100-metre record, but it was better for him to run the 100 at an upcoming meet, outside of school competition. Similarly, Louis-Riel, which won the AAA girls soccer banner, had to make do without one of its best players, since she was playing for her club team. It's a balancing act.


Anonymous said...

Let me start of by saying what makinde has done is amazing. I am somewhat, no really suprised that he is staying in Ottawa for university. I know he has an excellent coach in glenroy gilbert but what can that school offer, im guessing he is not receiving and (athletic) scholarship. When it comes to facilities, training partners and competitions he is way better tested in USA. I wonder if ottawa U will fly him on weekends to Florida and Texas to compete. All I can say is currently he is Fastest highschooler in 110m and 5th in 200m in north america, he could go to any school he wanted on a full ride, why he stayed in Ottawa I cant understand. Can anyone give some clear reasons?

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure Segun wants to stay with his family, his friends, and obviously his current training is working really well, so he wants to stay with his coach. He also doesn't want to get sucked into the US system of "raising" an athlete, which can get pretty hectic. I also know that he's incredibly mature, and he made this decision carefully.

sager said...

Did Donovan Bailey go to college in the U.S.?

Anonymous said...

according to his bio, donovan bailey went to Sheridan College, for business. Then, after he began training for the 100m and was on the national team, Don Pfaff picked him up to train, and brought him to Louisiana State University.
Then in Atlanta, 1996, he won the 100m record and the 4x100m Gold, and one of his teammates was Glenroy Gilbert. Who is now Segun's coach. FREAKY! and Glenroy wants Segun to stay in Canada.

sager said...

Even freakier ... the OFSAA/Canadian intermediate record 100-metre record is held by Gilbert's '96 teammate, Carlton Chambers. I believe Canadian intermediate records are up to age 19, so Segun is going to get that eventually.

Anonymous said...

what is that record??

sager said...

10.41 seconds — my apologies, I was going to put that in the post but didn't want to bog users down with a lot of numbers.

Makinde ran 10.47 at the OFSAA East Regionals in Brockville the week prior. He was in range, but like I said, there's a day when these high school records will seem like small cheese to him.

Anonymous said...

nice. ya, that time is definitely in close range. probably he will beat it at least once before the age of 19.
what amazes me is that, yes, he probably won't think of his high school times as being incredible, but i don't think he'll ever take them for granted. he's an amazing person, who's also an amazing athlete.