It’s almost judgement day in Godfrey Okerenyang’s bid to represent Australia at the Youth Olympics in Argentina later this year.
The 15-year-old sprinter and long jumper will go all out at next week’s Australian Junior Athletics Championships in Sydney, competing in the under 18s, in a bid to make the squad.
And a long week looms, of trying to balance the desire and expectation of months of hope with simultaneously keeping the nerves at bay.
“I just try not to think about it until two hours before I actually compete,” Okerenyang said.
“I don’t like getting nervous and it doesn’t help me when I get nervous. When I’m like, relaxed, and don’t even know what’s going on, that’s when I do better.”
The Kooringal-Wagga club athlete was one of five locals to win medals at the NSW Juniors recently – taking out the under 17 long jump (6.61m) and taking silver in the under 17 200m sprint (22.50 seconds). He was disqualified from the 100m after a false start.
But Okerenyang, who doesn’t turn 16 until September, has to compete in the under 18s if he wants to make the Youth Olympic team, and national juniors is his last chance to book a seat on the plane to South America.
The pressure is on to win, and with qualifying times and distances.
That means running under 10.69 seconds for the 100m.
It’s quick, but doesn’t seem out of the question for Okerenyang, who ran a 10.9 and then a 10.8 at regionals last month.
“I was going crazy, I was so happy,” he said.
“That’s when I realised not thinking about it too much helps me do better.”
He won comfortably, suggesting with some competition, he can go quicker.
Okerenyang also ran a personal best in the 200m (22.00 seconds) and needs to get down under 21.49.
And his best long jump, recorded at the same carnival, is 6.88m. The Youth Olympics qualifying mark in the pit is 7.28m.
“I’ve jumped some 7.20 fouls and some Sydney coaches reckon if I do everything right I can jump 7.50m,” he said.
Okerenyang’s campaign begins on the track on Wednesday, in the heats of the 200m with the final on Thursday.
The long jump is on Saturday and he’ll have to wait until Sunday’s final day of competition for the 100m.
“I’m more keen on the 100 and long jump, I don’t really mind how I go in the 200 because it just kills me,” he said.
“Even though it’s probably one of my better events out of the three.”