Divine Oduduru first became an internet sensation in 2013 following a video interview that went viral on different social media platforms.
“I feel happy, I feel grateful and feel fulfilled. I’m happy because God gave it to me, I never experrected (expected) it,” Oduduru said in an interview after qualifying for the final of the 200m event of the IAAF World Youth Championships in 2013.
He was soon known as ‘never experrected’ because of the way he pronounced ‘expected’; no thanks to his funny ‘Warri’ accent.
Since then, his interviews have brought about a host of viral internet moments.
He has a slew of these viral clips which have been widely used to generate memes and funny videos on the internet.
“The final will be a deadly day, maybe both of us is going to die on the line because I am ready to run it to the last because I have the black man blood in me and African people we are born great, I’m ready for it,” he further said in that interview.
Asked about his opponents ahead of the 200m relay of the 2016 Olympic Games, he was his usual brazen self; “I don’t care who is in the race, we are here to run, so when the race kicks off, the gun goes, who gets to the finish line first wins the race.”
It wasn’t all just talk for Oduduru; while he first got social media famous from the viral interview clips, he gradually earned their respect too on the tracks.
Oduduru is a five-time African Junior Champion, winning three Gold Medals in 100 and two in 200m.
In 2014, he won silver in the 200 metres at the World Junior Championships, a year after making it to the final of the 2013 World Youth Championships.
His talent has never been in question but while he was hugely successful in youth competitions, Oduduru has so far failed to get to the level of sprint elites with just wee glimpses of his promise on the top stage.
And this has never been his fault, rather, the promising career of 21-year-old had been halted by the unfavourable Nigerian environment.
On the backdrop of lack of proper support from the government, inadequate, shabby facilities and the shortage of proper structures for nurturing of sporting talents, his talent was in the danger of being crushed.
Just before the 2016 Olympic Games, the Delta-born sprinter in an interview with Making of Champions summed up the fate of Nigerian athletes.
“Sincerely speaking, Nigeria is an annoying country. This is a country where we have produced athletes, we have athletes that can rule the world, we have athletes that can shake Africa and the world but because of lack of management we are missing it now,” he said obviously angry.
“Nigerian athletes will go out and represent a country, you come back with nothing, this should be a shame to Nigeria because Nigerian athletes we are suffering.”
The system Oduduru summed up with his above statement, is the same that halted his promising career.
He got to the semi-final of the 200m at the 2016 Olympics but talent can only take you that far.
Competing against top athletes who have passed through more efficient and better ran systems, he never stood a chance at the Olympics and maybe in athletics at that level.
Just after the Olympics, he got a scholarship to study at Texas Tech where he has progressed remarkably.
After an injury-plagued 2017, he is thriving at the college.
In 2018, he twice smashed two long-kept Texas Tech records. In February 2018, he ran a new indoor Personal Best (PB) of 20.49s to win the 200m at the Texas Tech Track & Field Red Raider Invitational, smashing Texas Tech college’s 20-year-old 200m indoor record which had previously stood since 1998.
In April 2018, he broke the Texas Tech’s 14-year 100m record at the Michael Johnson Invitational in the United States of America with a time of 10.10s which was also a personal best. In June 2018, he won the 200m title at the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship in Eugene.
In 2019, Oduduru has continued to impress in his third year at Texas Tech and has come tops in all three meets so far this season. The Delta State-born sprinter is rated as one of the top 10 track and field athletes in American collage athletic.
On Sunday, February 9, he ran a Personal Best, 6.56 to win the 60m title of Texas Tech Shootout after getting all the way to the final. The 6.56 he ran tied the school record.
So what changed in America?
He didn’t abruptly become more talented or passionate about sprinting, rather, he has had the benefit of better training, management and more suitable surroundings that have improved him.
Everything about him has changed; he speaks better, looks healthier and fitter and most importantly, his career is in better shape more than it has ever been.
Oduduru’s progress at Texas Tech highlights the worrying decline of talent development in Nigeria. There are thousands, if not millions of Odudurus out there, passionate and talented just like him who will never get the opportunity to a scholarship in the United States.
He is an example of another Nigerian athlete who has gone abroad to better his career.
Oduduru still competes for Nigeria and his successes in America is one we should be proud of. But his progress is a reminder of what we are lacking and how bleak the future continues to look.