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Exclusive: Ojie Edoburun on the mental side to athletics and chasing Doha 2019

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"What drives me is to push my body to its complete limit."

Even at the age of 23, British sprinter Ojie Edoburun has a wise head on his shoulders and the elite mentality needed to succeed at the cutting edge of athletics. From the moment Edoburun spoke to me in Glasgow back in March, it was clear the country not only had a sprinter with the physical attributes to succeed but the mental capacity to realise his full potential.

Edoburun isn't a household name and he would admit it myself, but seldom has Britain had such a successful sprinter rising through their youth ranks. The London-based runner claimed silver at the 2013 World Youth Championships, gold at the 2015 European Junior Championships and a ribbon of each hue from the European U-23 Championships in 2017.

However, if you think that Edoburun is lounging upon the success of his youth career, then you're wrong. The sprinter has turned his focus to the long-term, while also keeping an eye on this year's World Championships, and is starting to see the likes of Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles as targets as opposed to celebrities or idols.

Speaking exclusively to GiveMeSport, Edoburun openly admitted: "When you're caught up in the crowd, you can become a bit of a passenger, but I'll never say that I'm in awe. I understood that eventually I'm going to meet them at the start line and if you're in awe of someone before you race them, you've already lost.

Not phased by world-class sprinters

"I'm in a two to three year process. What I've definitely got to understand and what I've learnt to understand is that it's one thing to have potential, but it's another thing to deliver a consistent catalogue of world-class performances. I feel like now that I'm getting a good base of what works for me, this is the year that I want to be more consistent.

"If my consistency is good enough for me to arrive alongside the world's best this season, then so be it but I'm very much looking at this for the long run. I want to create a system that's sustainable and that will last me up until my late twenties. I don't want to be someone who pours all their energy into one season, I want to be someone who comes and performs year in, year out."

There was a real sense that Edoburun has the awareness that exciting sprint prospects like himself are often liable to 'burning out.' For that very reason, the 23-year-old isn't throwing the kitchen sink at 2019 just yet and is embracing a project designed for him to reach his peak years at the top of his game. It's a marathon, not a sprint if you'll ignore the pun.

ATHLETICS-BRITAIN-INDOOR

Experience from Glasgow 2019

And like in many professions, experience is invaluable and sharing a British team with the likes of Laura Muir and Katarina Johnson-Thompson has been ideal for Edoburun. Glasgow 2019 marked his first senior championships and despite downplaying his physical condition, he cruised his way to the final and was just a few strides away from ascending the podium.

"It's [experience] really, really important," the Brit agreed. "In terms of junior experience, I ticked most of the boxes I needed to tick, but I learnt very quickly when I moved to the senior ranks, that there's so much more that goes into it. You're not the best one in the field anymore, that's the simplest change.

"You've got to contend with guys who are as good as you, if not better and they'll try to play mind games with you. There's a lot of things to contend with and I think it's no secret that I found things hard transitioning and showing my full potential. Experience is very, very important because without experience, you're not in the conversation, you've got to be there."

2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships - Day Two

Edoburun's sporting motivation

In Glasgow's Emirates Arena, Edoburun had less than seven seconds to prove himself and the 100 metres offers merely three seconds extra. It's certainly beyond my comprehension quite how these elite athletes, never mind up and coming ones trying to prove themselves, deal with the very tension and release which mirrors the very gun that starts them.

It should come as little surprise that the presence of sports psychology is becoming greater and greater. However, many young athletes would take a lot from listening to Edoburun and few competitors of his age apply such an impetus to the mental side of the sport. At the heart of that philosophy, is an unwavering desire to reach his full potential, whatever that may be.

"I'm not going to sit here and say what motivates me every day is to become Olympic champion," Edoburun explained down the phone. "The truth is, I'm not actually in control of who's Olympic champion, but what I am in control of is achieving my full potential. If my full potential is 10.04 and I've run that already, I'm happy with that and if it's 9.58, I'm happy with that.

IAAF World Youth Championships - Day 2

The mental side to athletics

"I've learnt this year that athletics is around 80% mental and the rest physical. When you actually break it down, see what the hard and the most uncomfortable parts of the sport are, they always surround the mental aspects. It's good to be a bit vulnerable and accept that there are weaknesses in your game, those are the hard things.

"I think the hardest thing is realising that you've actually got to work on that. I think when you're a guy as well, the ego takes over before your race tactics sometimes, particularly being a sprinter. I've found my biggest improvements across training having been getting a hold of myself mentally and getting more control of my thoughts. Mental game is very, very important."

With senior experience in the bag, no fear of world-class athletes and an impeccable mental game, it gives Edoburun all the tools for success in 2019. While making the team in Doha isn't the be all and end all at this stage of his career, you can guarantee the Londoner will be diving for the coattails of Reece Prescod and Britain's fastest men. 

Sainsbury's British Championships Birmingham: Day Three

A massive 2019 ahead

When asked for his goals going into the outdoor season, Edoburun replied: "To be more competitive on the world stage. To be able to get on the track each time and present that I'm ready to produce world-class times and be more consistent. I want to get to the team for Doha, so to make the top two at British trials, and just compete to the best of my ability."

Sprinting is just about as cutthroat as athletics can get, and Edoburun is doing everything in his power to walk the razor's edge with a physical and mental equilibrium. While the careers of some sprinters can last as momentarily as their runs, Britain's latest 100m sensation has the elite mentality to make those 10 seconds live far longer in the mind.

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