Divine Oduduru Woke Up On The Right Side Of The Bed

Texas Tech sprint coach Calvin Robinson says Divine Oduduru “just needed to work on his start.” (KIRBY LEE/IMAGE OF SPORT)

DIVINE ODUDURU’S ANALYSIS of his NCAA 100/200 double, one that stamped him as a collegiate great, was suitably simple. “At first when I woke up this morning, I was like, this is a big day,” Oduduru explains with his trademark big grin. “Sometimes you wake up on the right side of the bed, sometimes you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. I woke up on the right side of the bed, I stretched, I got ready for the day. I felt good.”

There figure to be plenty more good days in Oduduru’s future, as he expanded his world lead in the 200 and matched the yearly topper in the 100, together combining for the second-fastest 1-day double in history, trailing Justin Gatlin’s 9.77/19.71 at the Brussels DL in ’14. “Hoo boy, that’s fast,” Oduduru says. “When I hear stuff like that, I just encourage myself and tell myself that this is the beginning of great things. I have to put my head down, get my focus, believe in my coach, do the right thing at the right time, be humble to everyone, be obedient to the rules and regulations and I knew it was going to be great.”

The Texas Tech junior comes across as someone who gets it, who mixes saying the right things and keeping a sense of humility while giving the impression that he is having fun and living in the moment. Predictably, he doesn’t have an answer when asked if he will wear the Tech uniform again, something that seems improbable if he has another day like this at the World Championships, or even if he doesn’t. Coach Calvin Robinson says, “We should know pretty soon. He still has another year of eligibility. He’s contemplating what he wants to do next.” For his part, moments after his 200 win Oduduru said, “I don’t know yet.”

At any rate, that wasn’t on his mind as the meet wound down: he was just soaking it all in and even more, enjoying the team title—Tech’s first-ever in a men’s sport—that his 200 clinched. Even what Oduduru says about that was telling: “What a group and I’m so honored to be among the student-athletes that achieved this.” His double also showed his growing maturity. In the 100, typically his weak link at the championship level, he won because he turned his weakest point, his start, into a strength. In the double, he basically never trailed from the opening step. “I was just going to execute, go through the phases and win two titles,” he says of his evening. “And it wasn’t just winning, it was running fast times in both, too. It was all about execution and going through the process, and this week was just me coming to execute and get it shut down, and that was just it today.”

Before this season, there was a perception that the 22-year-old Nigerian was a 200 guy who ran the 100 because he had to. Robinson doesn’t think that’s a fair assessment, though much of the work Oduduru has done has been to erase that notion. Says Robinson, “I wouldn’t call him that; Divine just needed to work on his start. His first year here he ran a 10.09; he just had to get his start where he needed to be. In the prelims [9.96w] he missed his start. He hit it in the final. He’s always had high top-end speed, he’s always been able to run a good 100. He needs to get more consistent with his start.”

Another way Oduduru set himself up for the double was gaining more experience at it. Throughout the outdoor season there was more of a focus on the 100 for a sprinter who came in as the defending outdoor and indoor champion in the 200. His NCAA double was just a slightly faster version of what he did in April in Waco at the Michael Johnson Invitational (9.94/19.76), and it’s worth noting he ran the 100 and not the 200 at the Big 12 championships when Texas Tech was fighting for (and winning) a team title.

Speaking of his busy Saturday in Austin, Oduduru says, “The time was really short going from the 100m to the 200m, but one thing is, what you’re used to, you’re used to. It’s something we’ve been doing in practice, and we’re just here to execute and go through what we’ve been doing, and that is exactly what happened today.”

He’ll need to duplicate that to have a chance at the Worlds. Adjudged Robinson, “I wouldn’t call him a favorite. There are guys who have been running at this level a long time and have that experience. He definitely has a chance to make the finals, he can be in the mix.” Texas Tech head Wes Kittley, who took over in Lubbock when it was terrible back at the turn of the century, says of the double, “Divine is just incredible. This is the very best 100-200 double in the history of the NCAA, I really mean that.”

Robinson phrases it another way, making the case that Oduduru’s grand day put him on the college sprinting Mount Rushmore. “The biggest difference, and it showed this weekend—we had great weather—everything Divine has done has been wind-legal,” Robinson says. “You’ve seen in the past people run 9.96, 9.97, and 19.81, 19.82, but they weren’t all wind-legal. His double was wind-legal. It goes in the books.”

Actually, it rewrote the books. ◻︎

(NOTE: on the Thursday after the NCAA, Oduduru turned pro.)

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