It’s only three months since Rhasidat Adeleke was juggling her Leaving Cert mocks with life on the track as an elite athlete.
The Tallaght AC star has recalled one particular day when she went from an exam in Presentation College in Terenure straight to Athlone for the AIT International Grand Prix.
“That was pretty strenuous,” she remembered yesterday.
There was a familiar level of comfort in all that too. Strict adherence to her routine was something to which she had become accustomed and there was plenty to aim for on both the academic and the athletic fronts.
Now, that has all changed.
Adeleke, like thousands of teenagers around the country, kept studying right up until the day when prospects of even a delayed Leaving Cert were finally canned. Her sporting ambitions had already been placed on hold.
Training has been restricted to a football pitch near the family home, she has yet to reunite with coach Daniel Kilgallon who lives beyond the 5km radius currently allowed and was still unclear as to when the club in Tallaght was reopening.
“I’m not finding it too bad training on the grass.”
Such uncertainty is, unfortunately, a cornerstone of the new normal and she is still undecided as to what her next step will be in terms of her education.
Business or social studies are proving a draw but the location will be as big a call as the area of study chosen.
The 17-year-old has attracted serious interest from US universities thanks to performances such as the 100m and 200m gold double at last year’s European Youth Olympics in Baku but it isn’t a leap to suggest that she is leaning towards a course here at home.
She travelled to the States during the October mid-term to look at a few possible scholarship programmes and, while the Covid-19 situation prevented her from a second scouting mission, she practised due diligence by speaking to Irish athletes who have taken the US route in the past.
The vast majority have been middle distance runners, though, not sprinters.
“I feel the whole Covid-19 situation has made it even more difficult to make the decision,” she explained. “I’m not sure when the Leaving Cert results will be out and, if I do go to the US, I’m not even sure if I will be able to start in the fall. The option might be to start in January, that’s a tough way to start a new regime.”
There are obvious advantages to staying at home.
Mum Ade is her de facto manager and taxi driver while she takes her own driving lessons. Added to that is the wider support available from family, friends, and people like coach Kilgallon, although she wouldn’t be “scared” of trying the States either.
Had life continued on as normal then Adeleke would have been opening her chapter as a third-level student on the back of an appearance at the World U20 Championships in Kenya, which were due to take place in July but joined the list of events scuppered by the pandemic in late March.
She was “distraught” by that and, while there are some suggestions that it may be held as an U21 event next year, none of the times or records would be accepted into the championship record books were that to be the solution.
Who knows what Adeleke’s focus will be by then? It may be that she has Tokyo rather than Nairobi in mind given her involvement with an Irish women’s 4x100m relay team, alongside Gina Apke-Moses, Molly Scott, Ciara Neville, and Patience Jumbo-Gala, which could well benefit from the one-year delay to the Olympics in Japan.
“It could be a blessing in disguise. Another year of development could mean the world because our relay team are very young. It is another year to develop our bodies, to mature. Hopefully, we can get more practise in together in the winter and try to qualify for Tokyo.”
Just making Santry would do for now. With the months of May to July still under lock and key in competitive terms, Athletics Ireland have listed a provisional date of August 8/9 for a National track and Field Championships at Morton Stadium.
Adeleke is all for that.
“I’m not sure if everyone is going to be on top form, but just to be able to compete, and to compete injury-free, it would definitely be a plus for all athletes. I feel like everyone would probably want there to be a season, just something to put all your hard work towards.
“Regardless of performances, it’s definitely a good opportunity to see how you are and see how your training goes. It would definitely be a positive to have a season.”