The Wanda Diamond League Call Room lockdown series continues today (31) at 6pm GMT with its Rabat meeting edition, with special guests Marie-Josée Ta Lou of Ivory Coast, Botswana’s 800m superstar Nijel Amos and Nigerian sprinter/jumper Blessing Okagbare taking the virtual stage on the Diamond League's Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Ta Lou: I run for all of Africa and future generations
Ta Lou has said that she hopes to inspire the next generation of African champions with her success in the Diamond League and major championships.
Ta Lou, who came second in last year’s Rabat Diamond League and later broke the African 100m record in the same stadium as she swept to gold at the All-African Games, said she hoped to inspire others to go even further than her.
“I want to be a good role model,” she said. “After I stop running, if somebody who becomes a champion later on says that they were inspired by watching me, that would make me really happy.
“It motivates me every time. I don't run only for me, I run for all of Africa, for all the world, and for all the people who think they don't have the chance to become a champion.
“I know how far I have come, how many sacrifices I have made, so if I am inspiring other people today, that's a reason to be better every day.”
Ta Lou also looked back on some of her memories from the Rabat meeting, the only Diamond League event on African soil. She also explained how she is staying happy and busy during the coronavirus crisis, and why she still needs to work on both her dip and her start if she is to hit form for the Olympics next year.
Amos: I used to run like a Toyota, now I’m a Bugatti!
Meanwhile, 800m star Amos has admitted he struggles to deal with the pressure of being a favourite, but insists that improvements to his technique are transforming him into a human sports car.
“If you look at my running style, it’s changed a lot,” said the middle distance star.
“I always joke with my friends and say I used to run a Toyota Corolla. Now I’m trying to be more like a Bugatti and have everything going smooth!”
Amos also admitted that he struggles to shake off the pressure of being top dog, claiming that “my biggest rival is myself”.
Having won an Olympic silver medal in 2012 and back-to-back Diamond League titles in 2014 and 2015, Amos was favourite at the World Championships in 2017, but slumped to a disappointing fifth place in the final.
"When I came up, David Rudisha was the king. He was always winning the 800m, so I was the underdog. There was less pressure and less stress.
“In 2017, I was the guy to beat. I had never been in that position. I was there physically, but not mentally. I couldn’t even apply lotion onto my body, my manager had to help me!”
Having returned to his best form with a 1:41.89 meeting record in Monaco, the Botswana star then suffered a similar setback as favourite in the Diamond League Final in Zurich last year, losing out to the USA’s Donovan Brazier after a strong start.
“In Zurich, I was a Golf GTi!” joked Amos. “I went too hard in the beginning! After Monaco, I was too excited, too confident.”
Okagbare: It’s an honour to represent Africa
Okagbare also has fond memories of the Rabat Diamond League fixture. Competing there, she says, feels as though she is representing the whole of Africa.
“Every time I go there I feel like it's a home crowd. It may not be Nigeria, but it's still Africa.
“When I first heard they were going to have a Diamond League in Rabat back in 2016, I was so happy. For me, Africa was more like home, and it was an honour to be part of it and to represent the continent.”
Okagbare has competed at the Moroccan meet every year since it was incorporated into the Diamond League circuit four years ago, but she won for the first time there only last year, with a season’s best of 11.05 in the 100m.
“Every time I go there I want to do well, but finally last year I got a win!”
Okagbare also discussed her surprise 200m win in Eugene last year, how she became a sprinter almost by accident, and how studying has kept her sane in lockdown.
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