By Martin Cleary
If you were to ask Eliezer Adjibi six years ago to name his primary sport, he would have proudly said soccer.
In his early days as a teenager, he would show his speed as a left-wing player for the Cumberland Cobras and the Nepean Hotspurs.
One day at practice, he found himself involved in a one-on-one challenge race with a friend, who was a former track and field sprinter. In the end, Adjibi was a close second, but he learned a golden lesson.
That fun race told him he had straightaway speed and maybe he should give track and field a try. When the spring outdoor track season arrived at Louis Riel High School, he tried out for the sprint team, but made the Rebelles squad as a boys’ junior high jumper instead.
Adjibi showed promise as a high jumper with a personal best of 1.75 metres and jumped 1.70 metres at the OFSAA provincial high school championships in 2016. But he never gave up on becoming a sprinter.
In his final two years as a high school student/athlete, Adjibi transformed into a sprinter. He qualified for the OFSAA boys’ senior 100-metre final by running 11.33 seconds to place fifth overall in the heats and was seventh in the final at 11.40.
By Grade 12, his “times kept dropping, dropping, dropping,” he said, to the point he ran 10.93 for the 100 metres and 21.94 for the 200 metres for a pair of OFSAA championship bronze medals in 2018.
It was a good thing he persisted because today Adjibi is a two-time gold medallist from the recent Canada Summer Games in the Niagara Region. And he did that with a tender right hamstring leg muscle that finally gave out and prevented him for a run at a third gold medal in the 200 metres.
Gatineau sprinter Audrey Leduc, however, did achieve triple gold-medal status at the Games. In record-breaking fashion, Leduc won the women’s 100 metres in 11.55 seconds, the 200 metres in 23.70 and anchored Quebec’s 4×100-metre relay team to a time of 44.74.
She broke the long-standing Games’ records in the 100 metres (Ontario’s Cindy Moore, 11.56, 1977) and the relay (British Columbia, 1993, 45.61).
After an awkward start, Adjibi, 21, posted the fastest time in the men’s 100-metre heats at the Games at 10.47. He was careful not to irritate his hamstring, which had given him some issues two weeks before the Games.
In the 100-metre final and feeling hamstring pain over the last 20 metres, Adjibi earned first place with a record time of 10.32. The former Games’ record of 10.38 was shared by Nathan Taylor and Karson Kowalchuk.
“I had to keep in mind if I did everything properly I would be rewarded,” Adjibi said in a phone interview. “At the start, I stayed calm and came out strong. But I felt a twinge in my hamstring. It didn’t change my stride and I was good enough to cross the (finish) line.”
Adjibi, who is entering his third year in mechanical engineering at the University of Ottawa, was thrilled to see his winning time of 10.32. He set his personal best of 10.23, when he placed fourth in the men’s senior 100-metre final earlier this summer at the Canadian track and field championships in Langley, B.C.
“I was excited, but happy to know I could go that fast,” he added.
Three hours later, he was scheduled to be the anchor for Team Ontario’s 4×100-metre relay squad.
“I made sure I saw a physiotherapist at the track,” he explained. “I had my leg taped, I stretched, walked around and loosed up a bit.”
When he took the baton on the third and final exchange, he felt good for the first 50 metres, but the “last 50 was hard.”
He was on the verge of pulling his hamstring for the fourth straight year and had to withdraw from the upcoming 200 metres.
David Adeleye of Ottawa, Alex Collins of Ottawa, Immanuel Onyemah of Mississauga and Adjibi were Ontario’s relay gold medallists. Both Adjibi and Collins run for C.A.N.I. (Constant And Never-ending Improvement) Athletics.
Adjibi’s performances at the Canadian championships and the Canada Summer Games are two important steps for him as he aims to be named to a future national senior team and compete in high-level international meets.
His fourth-place finish at nationals with a best-ever time of 10.23 had him in the conversation for Canada’s relay team for the recent world championships in Eugene, Oregon. But he wasn’t selected as one of the six men’s sprinters to be considered for the national 4×100-metre relay team, which won the gold medal with a world-leading time of 37.48 seconds from Aaron Brown, Jerome Blake, Brendon Rodney and Andre De Grasse.
“I was disappointed,” Adjibi said. “Yes, it would have been nice to go to a higher level at worlds. There was nothing I could do about it. There’s one next year. I’ll see if I can make that team.”
C.A.N.I. Athletics’ director Lyndon George believes Adjibi has all the physical traits to be a world-class sprinter, including motivation, discipline, consistency and being fearless.
One of Adjibi’s goals for the Canada Summer Games was to run 10.05 seconds and George feels that’s achievable.
“He has the capability to go that fast, but will take another year of growth at the least,” George explained in an email interview. “He is very young and nowhere near the finished product at the moment. He is still putting his race pattern together and (is) not as strong as he needs to be yet. He is still a level away with his speed endurance.
“His mindset is the most impressive part to me. He has a high aptitude for the technicalities of sprinting and believes he can tussle with anyone on the track. He is ready to do the work, (is) consistent . . . and attentive.”
Quiet and soft spoken, Adjibi supports his teammates and “understands his role as a group leader,” according to George.
“Many athletes do not understand the demands and patience required to be a successful athlete and he communicates that very well to members in our group, who struggle initially with what it takes,” he said.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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