Emmanuel Onwubiko: Amusan: Audacity of tenacity


There is one fascinating thing about dreams, ambitions and aspirations especially if the dreamer, ambitious Being and the aspirants go about such innate feelings and state of mind with positivity.

The thing is that landmark individual achievements do occur when the person has first dreamt about the prospect of attaining a lofty height in the distinctive field of calling and then vigorously, meticulously, resiliently and deliberately pursues the goal with equanimity, hope high expectation and of course with a dint of hard work. Hard work with a combination of luck pays.

There is nothing that is worth doing that is not doing well because as philosophers remarked that “you can’t give what you don’t have” or in latin ‘nomen dat quod non habet’.

Therefore when in the last 48 hours in faraway United States of America, the Nigerian native by name Tobi Amusan, a girl in her early twenties, emerged as a world champion in 100 metres hurdles and on top of that netted in an unprecedented World record of 12.12 seconds, that moment marked the culmination of all her efforts at actualizing such a monumental athletics achievement. She identified herself as the ‘almost there’ athlete because she has always competed at the topmost levels but have often always not made it to Gold medal which is now in the past with her phenomenal achievement.

That professional runner Tobi Amusan did not just fall from the sky and then won the Gold medal, but she worked very hard for it just as the saying goes “Practice makes perfect”.

But who is this Nigerian native that has began ruling her World of athletics?

A local daily in Nigerians aptly reported that Nigerians woke up on Monday to the news of Oluwatobi Amusan making history by becoming Nigeria’s first-ever gold winner at the World Athletics Championships.

Her performance came 90 minutes after she set a record time in the semi-finals with 12.12 seconds, which broke the 12.20 record of America’s Kendra Harrison, who finished behind Amusan in second place.

Amusan finished in 12.06 seconds in the final which would have broken her new world record, but her new record was ineligible as the wind speed was over the legal limit.

This is not her first medal in international meets. She has been making exploits for a while. However, many analysts believe she was being overshadowed by other Nigerian well-established athletes.

Fundamentally, the young Miss.Amusan was a silver medallist at the 2013 African Youth Championships in Warri just as she also claimed gold in the 100 metres hurdles at the 2015 African Junior Athletics Championships in Addis Ababa.

In 2015, while making her All-Africa Games debut as an 18-year-old, she won the gold medal in the 100 metres hurdles.

In 2016, as a freshman a the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), Amusan became the second athlete for the university to be named C-USA Female Track athlete of the Year since UTEP joined C-USA.

She was the gold medalist in both the 100 mH and the 200m. She also claimed a silver in the long jump at the C-USA Championships.

Remarkably, the young Amusan first broke the 13 s barrier in the hurdles with a time of 12.83 s at the El Paso UTEP Invitational. This eclipsed Kim Turner’s 100 mH UTEP record which had stood for 33 years just as In her first outdoor race of 2017, she ran a then lifetime best and UTEP record of 12.63 s in the 100 metres hurdles. She was the C-USA champion in her specialist event and also the runner-up in the 200 metres. At the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Amusan claimed the title ahead of Camacho-Quinn who was the champion the previous year. She did this in a personal record time of 12.57 s.

Significantly, at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, 2015 World Champion, Danielle Williams seemed to be the favourite to take the title in the absence of Sally Pearson. In the final, however, Amusan moved ahead of her competitors and won the race by a clear metre ahead of Williams.

However, later in 2018, she won her first African Championships title in her specialist event at the Asaba African Championships. She also claimed a gold medal in the 4 x 100 m relay at the championships.

At the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, she ran a personal best of 12.48s during the 100 metre hurdles qualifying rounds. In the semi-finals the following day, she equalled this personal best before placing 4th a few hours later in the final with 12.49s.

In 2021, Amusan finished fourth in the Tokyo Olympics with a time of 12.60s. She later competed in the Zurich Diamond League event, which she won in 12.42s, becoming the first Nigerian to win a Diamond League trophy.

Amusan opened her 2022 season by winning the 2022 Diamond League event in Paris, where she set an African record by 0.01s with a time of 12.41s.

She won gold in the 100m hurdles at the 2022 African Championships in Mauritius, defending her title successfully with a time of 12.57s ( wind-aided). She also competed in the women’s 4×100m and won gold.

Later in 2022, she competed in a Diamond League meet, finishing second with a time of 12.60s, behind Olympic champion Jasmine Camacho-Quinn. These historical accounts tallies with the statement that nothing good comes easily.

As can be deciphered from the aforementioned sixteen salient characteristic of this achieving world champion narrated by one of the major dailies in Nigeria, Miss. Tobi Amusan has passed through the crucible and had inevitably undergone tough regiments of energy sapping physical trainings and exercises for a very long period of time. She had always focused on her goal of making it to the top.

And from her speech and mannerisms, it would seem she has spent a great deal of time in the United states of America which is a place whereby the systems are institutionalized to facilitate the attainment of whatever great dreams one may have. America is a nation of perfection.

As someone who got exposed in a clime in which all the advanced and sophisticated facilities are made available, the thing to take away for us in Nigeria is the need to realistically build up the local sports industry to make the sports sector functional and useful for the discovery and harnessing of talents from the grassroots.

As a nation of over 200 million people, Nigeria is endowed with all kinds of talents but the governmental system in place has been crippled, and made dysfunctional because it would seem that a lot of top sports ministry officials benefit so much from the dysfunctionality and corruption. Often, appointments are given to misfits and persons who are not aware of what to do to drive the process of revolutionising the Sports sector to enhance youth development and make the sports economically viable.

It therefore beat all conceivable imagination that President Muhammadu Buhari who has had the last seven years as president, and has failed to upgrade the sports sector is now the celebrant and jubilant over an achievement of Miss Amusan made by America. Have these politicians no shame or conscience?

It is such hypocrisy displayed by president Muhammadu Buhari and the sports ministry officials that have kept Nigeria perpetually behind as a banana republic. As a government, you are not investing in the development of sports but the moment individuals through their distinguished tenacity wins laurels overseas the government simply jumps in to claim the credit.

It is such a crying shame that the minister of sports unilaterally banned and unbanned basketball and president Buhari was cool with it. The Nigerian football federation that is governed like gangsters’ fiefdom is so filthy and corrupt so much so that sports people representing the Country are most times denied of their statutory allowances.

Falcons football national female team, super eagles and athletes who have represented Nigeria are deprived of their rightful entitlements but when any of them living abroad wins a medal the political class hypocritically become jubilant.

But as a nation, we must be deliberate with the implementation of policies in the sports sector that permit us to catch talented youths from their grassroots, because nobody has ever built a castle in the air. Miss Tobi Amusan has made the Country proud but she was tenacious and resilient. She has had the rare privilege of training in a Country whereby talents are harnessed basically. The be all and end of this unprecedented sporting feat of Miss Amusan is the audacity of her tenacity.

Roy Gori in May 2016 wrote about tenacity thus: Probably the greatest challenge facing all ambitious businesses is how to identify the right people. In terms of success factors, nothing else comes close. To paraphrase American author and business consultant Jim Collins, great companies start by focusing on ‘who’ (the right people) before ‘where’ (the right vision) or ‘what’ (the right strategy). But that begs the question: when searching for the right people, what to look for?

In answering that question, companies tended to focus on intelligence in the past, measured as intelligent quotient (IQ). Over time though, they increasingly realised that intelligence alone was a poor predictor of effectiveness, especially for leaders. From the 1990s, companies began to take a broader view. Intelligence still mattered, but so did skills like being able to monitor one’s feelings and influencing others, collectively known as emotional quotient (EQ).

I believe the time has come to expand our view once again. IQ and EQ remain important – but are no longer enough in today’s environment. Massive social, economic and technological changes are in many ways transforming the environment in which we operate, and thus the skills we need to lead.

According to the OECD, by 2030, the global middle class is expected to more than double in size to nearly 5 billion, two thirds of which will be in Asia. Over the next two years, the share of Asians connected online will jump from less than 40% to over 60%. And increasingly, once online, this is where people interact and shop.

The scale of opportunity opened up by such trends is clearly huge. In a world transforming faster than ever before, businesses can expect a future defined increasingly by disruption and the need to embrace change. But with the right people, many businesses can look ahead to a period of unprecedented growth.

Future leaders are going to be people best equipped to handle these upheavals – and the inevitable share of challenges, dead-ends, roadblocks and, yes, failures that go along with them. These leaders will be the ones with the strength of character to sustain their commitment during tough times, rather than succumb to the temptation to quit. They’ll have the drive, self-belief and patience to persevere despite setbacks. And the ability to not only withstand the impact of disappointment, but grow from it. In short, tomorrow’s leaders will be the ones with tenacity, or a high tenacity quotient (TQ).

Why I feel so strongly about the power of TQ are the examples of our greatest leaders, like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Lee Kuan Yew, Aung San Suu Kyi and, in the business world, Steve Jobs and Jack Ma. For me, they are inspirational not so much for their achievements as the tenacity they showed in achieving them. Among them – and many others who have inspired me in my personal and professional life – there is no single personality type, skillset, background or belief. Instead, they are united by one exceptional quality: tenacity. Each of these leaders persevered in the face of tremendous adversity, when a more understandable – even logical move would have been to retire or quit.

Why is tenacity so important? One reason is that it provides perspective to place short-term difficulties in the context of a higher goal. Great leaders aren’t just tenacious – they are tenacious for something. Their commitment to a cause helps them look beyond an obstacle and treat it as an opportunity to improve. Simply put, tenacity gives them the confidence and determination to find a way, even if they currently don’t know how.

If businesses can benefit from promoting tenacity as part of their working culture, how should they go about it? I’d suggest three ways:

First, encourage tenacity among your existing talent pool. At Manulife, we recently moved to a performance appraisal system based not just on what employees achieve but how they achieve it. This gives us the opportunity to recognise and reward the behaviours we need to achieve our ambitions, and do so in a regular, systematic way. For example, we now ask employees for evidence that they are questioning the status quo and taking ownership of any situation they believe is not right.

Second, rethink your hiring practices. Most recruitment processes are still limited to focusing on IQ and, to a lesser extent, EQ. At Manulife, we are looking at ways to also integrate TQ – through the questions we ask, the information we seek and the assessments candidates take. That is, we will look not for those who appear flawless but rather those who can point to setbacks and disappointments and are able to articulate what they learned from them and how they responded.

Third, be the change you wish to see. More powerful than any change a leader can make to their systems and processes is the example they offer their people. I’ve made a pledge to open up with my teams about some of my own challenges and learnings. For example, I share the time I came away so disappointed with my own performance review that I nearly quit, an act I thankfully avoided only thanks to some just-in-time advice of a mentor. I look back on that experience now as one of the best personal growth moments in my career, and I’m certain I would not be where I am today without having gone through it.

I believe high TQ will increasingly be the quality organisations need to look for in an age of ever-faster disruption and change. While there are currently some challenges in measuring it, there are already practical ways to integrate it into a company’s operations and culture. By doing so, we can rightly recognise TQ as a distinguishing characteristic of effective employees, particularly of the leaders we will need to succeed.

Already Amusan is receiving validation and congratulations from legends if Sports and a certain Michael Johnson an American sporting champion has also displayed his angst that a non American made such a feat in the USA. But his erroneous criticising pales into insignificance going by the fact that the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, has congratulated Nigerian athletic star, Tobi Amusan, on her performance in the ongoing World Athletic championship.

The media reported that Amusan became the first Nigerian athlete to win a gold medal in the World Athletics Championship when she stormed to victory in the women’s 100m hurdles in Oregon on Sunday within 12.06 seconds. Amusan had earlier broken the world record in the semi-finals, where she clocked 12.12sec.

Quoting a tweet confirming Tobis win at the semis by the World Athletics official page, Bolt lauded the champion.“Congrats,” he tweeted with emoticons of the Nigerian flag and applauses.

After her performance in the finals, the Jamaican athlete also wrote, “Superb #Tobi.”

It is recommended that those opportuned to occupy government positions must endeavour to elevate the standards of sporting facilities and stop the corruption that has become pervasive so Nigeria can produce more of Miss. Tobi Amusan in no distant time.


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