Israel Olatunde is a young athlete brimming with confidence. It’s understandable given his status as Ireland’s fastest ever man following a superb 2022 season which saw him finish sixth in the European 100m final in Munich back in August.
“The confidence doesn't really come from the results, it just comes from me knowing the journey that I'm on and where I'm going to go,” Olatunde says.
“It was a great achievement to run a national record but at the same time there's loads of improvements to be made.
“This time last year I was searching for improvements and this year I'm searching for improvements again, so not too much has changed.”
While Olatunde’s constant will to keep pushing on remains, one thing that has changed is his status within Irish sport. Relatively unknown twelve months ago outside the Irish athletics bubble, Olatunde is now a well-known figure and with that comes increased media attention and admiration from young fans, something he admits he is “comfortable” with.
“It really is a great honour to see so many kids from different backgrounds who will be able to look up to me and be inspired.
“Athletics is a sport for everyone.
“It's really good to see young athletes looking to get involved.”
Olatunde is now in his final year of studying Computer Science with Data Science in UCD. This academic year marks the first time he hasn’t faced a daily commute from Dundalk to Dublin, something which he believes he will benefit from.
“From my first night, I felt pretty settled in and at home.
“It's a really great environment there in UCD, I have great roommates.
“It's great to actually be on campus and be able to have the things I need around me,” he adds.
“It's given me way more time for studying and also for recovery and training.”
Winter training is now in full flow for Olatunde and his training partners in Daniel Kilgallon’s group in Tallaght AC. With the Indoor season looming, both coach and athlete are happy with how things are going.
“I feel pretty good, but I can't get too ahead of myself.
“I've got to take it one session at a time and just put in the work that Daniel has set out for us.
“I’d say I'm just more fit than I was last year.
“There's still a lot of work to be done before the indoor season kicks off in January.”
The European Indoor Championships in Istanbul will be Olatunde’s main focus between now and summer but he ultimately describes the 60m event as like “speed work” for him.
The big goal in 2023 appears to be the World Outdoor Championships in Budapest and as he is still only twenty, the Louth sprinter is hopeful of bigger things to come over the next decade or more.
“The national record is a really special thing but at the end of the day it's my personal best now,” he says.
“I'm looking to lower my personal best well into my twenties and into my thirties as well.
“Right now, I'm looking to see what I can improve on and take the time down as low as I can.
“Sub ten seconds, I think is definitely achievable, but I just have to take it one step at a time, one training session at a time, execute as well as I can, listen to my coach, take care of my body and the fast times will come.”
If 10.17s wasn’t fast enough, it is truly exciting for Irish athletics fans to see what Israel Olatunde can do in the future. Unquestionably a star of the sport now and a star for the future.
Israel Olatunde was speaking at the official launch of 123.ie as national partner of Athletics Ireland which will see the leading Irish insurance company support an athletics community of over 300,000 be the best they can be. See www.123.ie/Athletics-Ireland for more.