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Nigerian Sprinter, Divine Oduduru Goes Professional

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The Nigerian sprinter, Ejowvokoghene Divine Oduduru, who is officially the second fastest African, has turned professional. He announced this on his personal twitter handle @odudurudivine1, the announcement is coming on the heels of his record-breaking performance at a recent National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) track and field event in the United States where he runs for Texas Tech, and he holds the records for tin 100 and 200 metres.

 

The Nigerian-born athlete ran the world’s fastest time for this year in both races at the 2019 Michael Johnson Invitational in Waco, Texas on Saturday, April 20, 2019. While he is now a legend as far as collegiate athletics, Oduduru is already aiming high at the World Championships billed for Doha later this year.

The next major competition on Oduduru’s schedule is the IAAF World Championships scheduled Sept. 27 through Oct. 6 at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar.

“I’m just going to go train, do the right things to get myself ready for the World Championships,” he said, “and when I get there, I know great things are going to happen.”

Competing as a 19-year-old at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Oduduru ran in the same first-round and semifinal heats of the 200 as Usain Bolt — side by side in the semifinals.

When the Texas Tech men try next year to defend the NCAA track and field championship they just won last week, Tech coach Wes Kittley assumes they’ll be doing it without Divine Oduduru.

Kittley says it would be prudent for Oduduru to forego his senior season and lock in life-changing money now by signing a pro contract.

“I’m going to encourage him to,” Kittley said. “He’d turn down too much money. He can tweak his hamstring next year and get nothing. How are you going to turn down $350,000 for five years or $400,000 for five years or $500,000 for five years — two and a half million dollars?

“You can’t do it. Not in our world. Not in the track world. I mean, that’s a lot. He’s a sprinter, so he has an opportunity to get some of that bigger money.”

Oduduru is tied for the world lead this year in the 100 meters and ranks third in the world in the 200 with the wind-legal times of 9.86 and 19.73 seconds he ran Friday at the NCAA championships in Austin, both second-fastest all-time by a collegian.

He’s won four NCAA championships individually: the 200 at the 2018 outdoor, the 2019 indoor and the 2019 outdoor, and the 100 at the 2019 outdoor. And during this year’s Big 12 championships in Lubbock, Oduduru ran a 20.08 200, the third-fastest time ever recorded indoors.

All that came after Oduduru’s freshman outdoor season was spoiled by a hamstring injury in late April 2017.

Oduduru had the world lead in the 200 this year for more than a month after he ran a 19.76 on April 20 in Waco. That stood until last week when Michael Norman and Noah Lyles, running against each other at the Diamond League meeting in Rome, ran 19.70 and 19.72 on Thursday. Then Oduduru ran his 19.73 on Friday.

“I asked agents this weekend — they’re all over the place — what’s he going to be worth?” Kittley said. “They started giving me that range. Well, let’s let them bid on him ... if he can get $500,000 (a year) instead of $300,000. We’ll see.

“I know everybody wants him. He’s the hot item right now.”

Florida hurdler Grant Holloway and LSU pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis announced decisions to turn pro subsequent to competing at the NCAA championships. Holloway became the first man ever to win three consecutive NCAA titles in the 60-meter hurdles indoors and three straight in the 110 hurdles outdoors. Duplantis is coming out after his freshman year, having already broken the collegiate and under-20 world records in the pole vault.

Oduduru was reluctant to say much about the choice he faces.

“I think that is a decision not really given out yet,” he said. “I might stay behind. I might go.”

The 2020 Summer Olympics are next July and August in Tokyo.

Kittley said Oduduru’s being a sprinter gives him substantially more earning potential with shoe contracts than Tech’s array of former high-jump standouts JaCorian Duffield, who competed in the 2015 World Championships; Bradley Adkins, who competed in the 2016 Olympics; and Trey Culver, who won two NCAA titles.

“Contracts are awful for high jumpers,” Kittley said. “They just don’t pay for high jumpers. The 100 and the 200, they pay. So he’s got to do that. He just does.

“Now, he’ll stay here. He’s going to graduate in December. He’ll be here training. We’ll make him a volunteer coach, but I’m going to encourage him to go out.”

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