Israel Olatunde is one of the breakout Irish sports stars of 2022. Now the holder of the national record in the 100 metres, the sky is the limit for the Co. Louth sprinter. Olatunde had an incredible performance at the European championships in Munich and is primed to have a massive 2023.
David Gillick: Israel, Ireland’s fastest man. That's a nice title to have, has it sunk in from the season?
Israel Olatunde: Yeah, I think it kind of has sunk in a little bit now, we're getting to the nitty gritty work of the winter training, so I’m just really focused on improving on that next year. I know people will be gunning for me so it’s all about just keeping my head down, focusing and seeing where we can go.
DG: When you look back at the last couple of months and indeed the summer and Munich, did you watch back the race? Did you watch back your reaction?
IO: Yeah, I watched it back a few times, just reliving the moment. It was a really special moment for me and not just for me but for my family and for the whole country, I guess. It really was special to relive it and just to see my reaction as well because in the moment you’re not really thinking too much about it, but it's great to kind of look back and see how things played out.
DG: Is that something that drives you forward because you're young, you're only twenty and you performed when it mattered most at a championships. You went through the rounds, into the final and everything, but when you look back at that does it give you the motivation to go, “do you know what, I want more of that?”
IO: 100%. In this sport these moments don't come around too often, so you have to cherish each one. It's all about working hard to create more of these memories so hopefully in 2023 there will be more of those special memories like that.
DG: What does 2023 look like for you?
IO: I'll open up my indoor season hopefully in January, all building up to the European Indoor Championships in March in Istanbul. Then outdoors, I have the European U23 Championships in Finland in July and then hopefully the World Outdoors in August in Budapest.
DG: It's a really positive day today. 123.ie have come on board as title sponsor for Athletics Ireland, which is fantastic. What does that mean for the sport?
IO: Athletics is a sport for everyone really and to have 123.ie come on board, hopefully push us forward and get young people and old people from all different diverse backgrounds involved in the sport, just push it and get more involvement really.
DG: Yeah, it's really positive because right now when you look at Irish athletics and all the results, yours included, to have a title sponsor come in like that, but also just where athletics is, is really positive going forward.
IO: 100%. I think there's a great crop of young athletes coming through. Hopefully we can continue to push the sport forward and put Ireland on the map internationally as an athletics powerhouse.
DG: A lot of people will ask when you look at yourself, look back to Munich and that record run in the final, when you're set in the blocks, what was going through your head?
IO: Not much to be honest. As soon as you walk on the track your mind goes blank and you enter a zone really. You’re just going through the motions, you've done this so many times already, so now it’s just time to perform. That's what I was thinking about, just performing, and doing what I’d already done so many times before.
DG: And what about the times? People look at the 100m, they talk about ten seconds and then they reference Usain Bolt and people like that. It's a tough question but how fast can you go?
IO: I mean, I'm 20 years old, hopefully I still have a lot left in the tank. I'm just going to keep working hard. I have a great coach and a great team behind me, so we’re just looking forward to seeing what we can improve on. I definitely can see areas of my race that I can improve on so hopefully I can just put in the work day-by-day and see where we can go.
DG: And right now, it is the winter, and this is kind of the hard graft for you sprinters. Is it the wet, cold nights and all you think about is the summer?
IO: Yeah, I guess so, but the training is still enjoyable. We have a great group down in Tallaght, it's great fun with the lads just training and pushing each other. We're excited to see what we can do in 2023.
Speaking at the launch of 123.ie's sponsorship of Athletics Ireland, managing director of the company Elaine Robinson explained why her company is backing the sport in Ireland.
It's so inclusive and as you say, from all walks of life, from juniors, schools, juveniles right up to masters and elites, it's a really inclusive sport and that's why it appealed to us.