On a quest to be the best, Ezinne Okparaebo prepares to “pursue her happiness” to become the fastest

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by Chris LaMonica
November 17, 2012

Retrospectively, the 2012 season was record breaking and resetting as Norway’s Ezinne Okparaebo twice established herself as the country’s fastest woman of all time first running an 11.31 (-1.2) 100-meters at the Oslo Diamond League Meeting on the 7th of June in front of the home crowd to only subsequently shatter her own short-lived mark with a new personal best of 11.10 (+1.2) on Aug 4 in the semi-final round of the Women’s 100m at the London Olympics, a mere eight weeks later.

Admitting to being, “nervous but at the same time excited,” Okparaebo described her, “first time winning in front of my home crowd … as an amazing feeling,” but credits her Olympic performance as more of the, “high achievement for [herself] because the Olympics is the biggest you can participate in as being a sprinter, and running in front of the whole world and setting the national record, it was just a great feeling.”

Last season the 24 year-old Puma sprinter arrived at the difficult, but carefully calculated decision to relocate her training camp from Norway to the United States citing, “the need for some more challenges,” under the tutelage of Nike 2011 Coach of the Year Rana Reider, based in Daytona, FL

“It was a culture shock, it was different from what I’m used to,” recalled the Norwegian categorizing practices as, “so competitive and everything was just in a real high level,” believing, “the good environment [and] a good coach who could help continue my development,” were constructive for her athletic growth and maturation as a sprinter.

The bold, leap of faith requiring journey, did indeed yield the desired dividends as the aforementioned 11.1 seconds in the Olympic semi-final was a well-timed seasonal peak.

“I felt like I ran a really good race that my coach told me certain things that I should do in the race,” recollected Okparaebo offering of her personal best race execution, “and I did it, and I did it really well, so I felt like I did my very, very best.”

Of the definitive decision to relocate her Olympic training to the U.S., Okparaebo further attributes, in addition to her hard work, the grasping notion of taking, “responsibility for  [her] own development … as the reason for [her] success this year.”

Currently training back in Norway for the prospectus of the 2013 season inclusive of the European Indoor Championships in Sweden and the World Championships in Moscow next August, Okparaebo does so away from Reider as his talents earned him a consulting position with UK Athletics in Loughborough.

“Right now it’s uncertain, but I am of course hoping to,” expressed Okparaebo in regards to reuniting with Reider explaining, ”right now I’m in Norway and I have a great support system to help with training, so we’ll see how it goes; I’m still waiting.”

Understanding the Latin idiom, carpe diem, Okparaebo intensely prepares for a fast approaching winter season which she hopes will culminate in her first gold medal at 60 meters in Go:etborg, Sweden at the European Athletics Indoor Championships on Mar. 3 of 2013.

“My personal best is 7:17 and it’s definitely [my goal] to run faster than that … and I’m training hard to come out on top in that competition,” stated Okparaebo who followed up a 2009 Silver in Torino, Italy with a 2011 Bronze performance in Paris, France.

But Norway’s fastest female has much grander aspirations stating, “I’m not even comparing myself with being the fastest in Norway,” wisely staving off complacency explaining her targeted sights are, “looking outside now and would like to be the world’s fastest one day.”

Operating in an event where the minimum podium required time now resides well below 11 seconds, Okparaebo, possessing “the ability to do it,” believes it is a time she can arrive at through hard work, but by, “also being patient,” adding, “I’m patient … willing to do the work that it takes [so] hopefully, I will be there one day.”

And specifically pertaining to breaking the sub-11 second barrier, Okparaebo identifies her close as an area for targeted development.  “It’s definitely the finish; I think I have a great improvement potential at that stage,” offered the Nigerian born sprinter while recognizing, “but also my strength is my acceleration, so I also need to keep developing that to become the best.”

But at the moment, Okparaebo is her country’s best and as such she has earned the accolades but also accepted the responsibility.

“Being the fastest you get attention because there’s not many that have done it before, or reached this stage before,” acknowledges Okparaebo realizing she is, “ more or less setting the bar for people behind me to see that it’s possible.”

Fittingly, born of Nigerian heritage, Okparaebo’s first name ‘Ezinne’ means ‘good mother.’  Apropos for Norway’s national record holder at 100 and 200 meter distances whose success on the international stage has garnered her national attention and elevated her to a status and opportunity of becoming a role model for the sport.

“Yeah, I feel like I’m a good role model because of the values I communicate out there,” explained Okparaebo adding, “I train hard, I work hard for my goals and I also encourage people to work hard for their goals and not set any limitation for themselves.”

Herself not accepting of an limitations, away from the track Okparaebo aspires to land on the cover of either, “Vogue or Sports Illustrated.”

“I’m also interested in fashion,” revealed the business marketing major expounding, “Right now track and field is number one, but I also want an education because I know that we have a very short career and I would like to have something to fall back on when I’m done with my athletics career because it’s not forever … I have other goals in life apart from running fast.”

And in that vein, one of the more immediate, unanticipated goals was adjusting to the massive commercial campaign of her new mobile sponsor Call Me.  “I’m fronting the whole campaign right now,” said Okparaebo with laughing surprise. “It’s billboards all over the city of my face; I think I’m kind of getting used to it right now, but it was weird seeing my face on the buses,” further explaining, “It’s also the benefit of being from a smaller country and also being a good role model.”

And a result her handling her success properly and humbly in the capacity of a role model, the ‘good mother’ explains, “During the Summer, Track and Field is getting more popular everyday,” in Norway where skiing dominates, further accrediting, “the result we have in the international level, so people are getting more interested in it because they would like to see Norwegians do well.”

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