Meet Kanyinsola Ajayi, the new speedster gunning to break into the 'Big 5' of Nigeria's top sprinters

EXCLUSIVE Meet Kanyinsola Ajayi, the new speedster gunning to break into the 'Big 5' of Nigeria's top sprinters

Funmilayo Fameso 14:34 - 23.02.2023

In an exclusive interview with Kanyinsola Ajayi, he talks on his goals of running at the World Championships in Budapest.

Kanyinsola Ajayi is one of Nigeria's rising speedsters based within the country, with big dreams of breaking into national and international prominence this year.

The youngster came into the athletics scene when he won the 2021 Maltina School Games and ever since has worked himself up to being one of the upcoming talents to keep an eye on for the future.

Making a statement in his 2023 season's debut

On Sunday (19) at the Lagos Club Athletics Series, Ajayi clocked the fastest time overall of 10.65s in his qualifying heat, which saw him through to the final, where he ran an impressive Season's Best (SB) of 10.37s, defeating Tokyo Olympic finalist Enoch Adegoke with 10.56s - who's still trying to find his speed rhythm back after an injury-plagued 2022 season.

Kanyinsola Ajayi has the fastest outdoor time by a Nigerian sprinter in 2023

"I feel great for winning the 100m final. My plan running my first race of the season was to drop a 10.1, but running 10.3, I know it's a good start to the season," Ajayi said in an exclusive with Pulse Sports.

"I gave him (Enoch) the regard because he's a senior, a bro, a professional, and a very good man to us, so I felt great running with him, it was a great experience. Beating him has boosted my confidence that I can do more and better than this," he added, on defeating Adegoke.

Tokyo Olympian, Enoch Adegoke

Talking about training and building up to the season, he gives insights on how he has been preparing for the season.

"Build-up has been tough, it has not been easy, but I've seen a lot of improvements in my training, my form, the endurance programme, the speed, my mechanism, I've seen great changes in everything."

Breaking into the 'Big 5' and competing in Budapest

Ajayi has big dreams for the 2023 season, with significant mentions of running a 10.0s, and competing at the World Championships in the 100m and relays.

"My main target for the season is to run 10.0s and qualify for the World Champs."

To achieve this, Ajayi knows he has to finish in the top three at the Nigerian Championships, which will require him to break into the 'Big 5' of Nigeria's current best male sprinters in Favour Ashe, Udodi Onwuzurike, Alaba Akintola, Usheoritse Itsekiri, and Godson Brume.

Kanyinsola Ajayi is gunning to compete at the World Championships in Budapest

He, however, isn't scared of creating this upset which he backs up with his faith in God.

"I know what God cannot do does not exist, so I believe God can do it for me. I'm not proud o, but I just believe in God that he will keep me going and do it for me."

Discovery and progress of Ajayi since 2021

Ajayi never took athletics seriously after he was discovered in 2021 by his grassroots coach, Olopade Lawal, in Ikorodu.

When Lawal took him to his first competition at the Maltina School Games, he was the star performer for his school, winning the sprints double titles and 4x100m relays. He was the cynosure of all eyes, as most coaches couldn't stop talking about his talent.

Ajayi and Arena Club relay squad at the Lagos Club Athletics Series on Sunday

Lawal will later hand him over to veteran Nigerian jumps coach, Olu Sule of Arena Sports Academy after she saw he skips training and distance from Ikorodu to running at meets in central Lagos was too far.

Sule will put him under the tutoring of their sprints coach David Sule (not related), and in less than a year, his improvement was tremendous.

In 2022, Ajayi clocked a massive Personal Best (PB) of 10.26s at the second AFN All-Comers meet at Yabatech Sports Center. The time qualified him for the World U20 Championships in Cali, Colombia, where he didn't compete in the 100m flat due to unknown reasons.

Kanyinsola Ajayi clocked a PB of 10.26s in less than a year of training

Putting the setback behind, he competed at his first Nigerian Championships but didn't make the final, then at the National Sports Festival (NSF) in Asaba, where he finished fourth in the 100m final and helped Team Lagos 4x100m relay squad to the Gold medal in a Festival Record.

Becoming a professional athlete

With his incredible progress in the past year, Ajayi now sees he can be the next big name in Nigerian athletics and do this professionally.

"My plans now are to further my studies and take one of the offers I have from US Colleges. My role model is myself, but I look up to Favour Ashe because he works hard and is very consistent with his time. While internationally, it's Christian Coleman because of his 60m phase."

The height of Ajayi achieving his 2023 goals may be magnanimous, but one thing is sure, Nigeria has discovered another top talent that'll be a global superstar a few years from now. He finished in the top ten of Nigeria's best sprinters in 2022, and this year he says he wants to be the fastest.