Feature Friday: Ese Okoro

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 “Sometimes you have to be knocked down to be built back up into a better and stronger structure, that’s life” how else do you grow? From the ground and up” Ese Okoro

 

Ese Okoro is a British 400m hurdler who was born in Birmingham, England on July 4th. She has 3 brothers and 3 sisters, one includes her twin sister. Her father used to hold the Nigerian high jump record and her mother was a talented basketball player (she was the first 16 year old to play for England). Ese graduated from Middlesex University (BA Law undergrad degree) and Iowa State (Masters Program of Interdisciplinary Studies). During her time at Iowa State, she earned 2nd team All-American x2 (2012-2013) and 1st team All-American honors (2014), Big 12 athlete of the week (2014), 6th place finisher at European Junior Championship, Big 12 Indoor 600yard Champion (2013), 3rd place finisher at Big 12 Outdoors Championships (400mH), Drake Relays Champion 400mH (2013), 2nd place finisher Big 12 Outdoor Championships (2014. 400mH), Commonwealth Games 400mH (2014) , and NCAA Outdoor Championships 2012, 2013, 2014.

 

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“I needed to realize track didn’t define me and I had other talents than just track.”

 

What’s your story?

 

I started running track at the age of 7, I did practically every event minus the distance and throws. I remember there was a time when I was 9 years old, I tried race walking a few times but that wasn’t fun for me. So I stuck to the sprints, hurdles, pentathlons, and long jump. During my childhood days I mixed between track and basketball, and of course track won my heart over. At a very young age I was very competitive I think that definitely came from playing with aggression in basketball and having 3 brothers. One thing that has always stuck whilst running track is being a part of the Okoro family, all my siblings were running and jumping and it was nice to do something I love with them around. It was pretty funny as they thought me and my twin were one person doing the hurdles or running the 800, 400, etc.

 

Around the age of 14, I stopped long jumping because one day I was out on my bike with my twin sister and I thought it would be cool to put my hand on her handle and ride simultaneously. Epic fail! I fell and hit my arm, by Gods grace there wasn’t any oncoming cars passing. When I got home, I sucked it up and raced the next day. I ended up winning and setting a PR in the sprints. I couldn’t bare the pain any longer so I told my parents and  went to the hospital to find out I had a green stitch fracture right across my wrist; the bone was basically half hanging. I spent part of the spring and the whole summer season in a hot sweaty cast watching from the stands. After that day I never long jumped again. The doctors recommended I not jump on it for a year because it hadn’t healed fully when my cast was taking off. However that didn’t stop me from hurdling, if I couldn’t do one I was going to do the other for sure.

 

When I was 15, I experienced my first track heartbreak. I should have finished in the top 3 in the finals of the 300mH at English Schools Championships but I hit a hurdle, lost my momentum and finished 6th. I was in complete despair and I ran slower than my prelim and semi final time. To this day, I still have not watched the race over again. The following year was redemption for me and I managed to finish 2nd. That allowed me to represent England in the schools under 17 international! The next year, I moved to the under 20’s age group to the 400mH. I didn’t like it. I couldn’t get my steps right in practice so I decided to focus on the 400m flat and 100mH for the whole year. I finished 3rd in the England championships. That same year I barely qualified for the final, I then ended up winning and becoming the English Schools Champion. In 2008, when I was turning 18, it was a very challenging year for me. I was studying for my A-Levels in order to go to university, therefore I barely trained and it showed in my performance, it was definitely a year of frustration. In 2009, I moved to London to attend university, at which I gave 400mH another go, that season I ended up making the Great Britain Junior team for the European Championships in Serbia.

 

The summer of 2011, I received my undergrad degree, a couple weeks after I got a full scholarship to attend Iowa State University. It was a dream come true! I always wanted to attend school in America and it finally happened. I believe attending Iowa State was what saved my love for the sport. I wasn’t enjoying it as much as when I was younger, so a change was needed. I loved the team environment, the facilities, and the equipment we were provided with, and most of all a track family. I went on to break school records, become a champion in the big 12 championships and Drake relays, NCAA finalist and an All-American. And most importantly I grew as a person and as an athlete and I’m glad I was blessed with a once in a life time experience that I will truly cherish.

 

After my last collegiate season summer 2014 I heard about the World Athletics Center now called Altis, I knew I had to be apart of the group as I loved being in America and the foundation that I grew whilst being there. I felt I still had a lot of untapped potential in me that I didn’t want to go to waste. I originally planned to join Altis fall 2014 but wasn’t able to join due to unforeseen circumstances. I chose to take the 2015 season out of racing where I took that time and trained through until the summer, that was a personal choice and I am glad I chose that path. I definitely feel more rejuvenated with that time out from competitive racing. 2015 was definitely a time to be content without competing and just figure myself out without track and appreciate it more than I had been. The whole year of 2015 was definitely a process of learning and growing as a person, it allowed me to get closer to my faith in God. The period of my life I was away from track is the foundation to why I am where I am now. The season was all a part of Gods strategy for my life, through the times of searching, crying, learning, growing it finally all made sense. My relationship with God needed to grow and areas in my life needed to grow. I needed to realize track didn’t define me and I had other talents than just track. For me the year was vital for what God wanted me to hear and needs me to become so that all that I developed in that season of my life will pour out into circumstances I’m presented with and into friendships along the way.

 

Through my time away from track I knew my time was not done and I still had untapped potential. So I applied for a visa which should have been approved by October however they were back logged in processing. So this was a time again to be patient, by the grace of God it was finally approved on December 1st. I then made the new journey for my life in January. God willingly it will be a prosperous road here on out. 🙂 The foundation has been laid!!!!!!

 

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“The most blessed life isn’t without trials and tribulations, and that’s a great teacher in order to be successful.”

 

What was your most monumental moment in Track and Field?

 

I have so many monumental moments in track so I am going to pick the most recent one which would be making the team for England for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Although I didn’t come away with a PR or make the final it was a great experience to be apart of at a world class level. And it gave me a taste of what the future can hold for me!

 

What is your mindset going into the Olympic year?

 

My mindset going into this Olympic year and it is probably the same as previous years is to not at any moment doubt my capabilities because anything is possible. It’s a time for me to gain focus however at the same time to enjoy  what I’m doing. For me it’s all about the process leading up, pruning areas of performance. Think about it all trees need care and attention if they are ever going to flourish, grow higher, bear better fruit so that the trees look handsome in appearance. And that’s just the mindset I have as an athlete, always trust the process, don’t rush the process and embrace the process you are in. Don’t force something because it’s more likely to fail, learn how to prune so you don’t injure the tree. I want to make sure I am using this platform to be thankful with what I have been blessed with and to show my gratitude by always giving the glory to God. Everything comes in seasons, I want to reach my full potential so that way I know I didn’t waste any athletic ability.

 

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“I want to make sure I am using this platform to be thankful with what I have been blessed with and to show my gratitude by always giving the glory to God.”

 

How is your training going so far?
 
To be truly honest the first week and half at Altis was a little bit challenging, but I guess I was adjusting to the environment and getting back to being in a group, as prior to getting to Arizona I was working out by myself. I have finally settled down and started transitioning well. Coach Kevin Tyler has done a great job in organizing training programs that benefits specific athletes. The athletes and coaches at Altis have been so welcoming, which makes practice a home.

 

Advice to Young Athletes
 
My advice to young athletes would be have fun! Lovingly embrace the sport 🙂
If there is anything I have learned in my athletic career so far it is that no matter what you will always have up and downs. And that’s all a part of the process, the most blessed life isn’t without trials and tribulations, and that’s a great teacher in order to be successful.

 

My words of encouragement today would be you can’t allow bad performances to overshadow the good. You must never be discouraged by failure, you use that grey area and turn it to the light. Track is more than just a sport; it teaches you life lessons. It’s a chance as an athlete to set goals and experience the joy in achieving them, and gain confidence in doing so. No matter what in life we are going to struggle but we have to learn to endure because if we throw in the towel we might just miss out on the blessings ahead.

 

 “Sometimes you have to be knocked down to be built back up into a better and stronger structure, that’s life” how else do you grow? From the ground and up” Ese Okoro

 

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“Track is more than just a sport; it teaches you life lessons.”

 

Workout Tips
 
I would say get out on a run and work that cardio with family and friends and enjoy the environment around you, it makes the experience of the run so much more fulfilling. I would also throw some circuits or yoga in your living room if your stuck for time and it’s convenient to do at home. And at the same time eat healthy give up those snacks of potatoes chips for some oven cooked kale chips and fresh fruit and veg 🙂 it’s a win win!!!!

 

Follow Ese’s Journey on Twitter and Instagram!

Thank you for Reading and Please check out our next Feature Friday Next Friday with Marvellous Iheukwumere !!!

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Thanks for reading!!  Please feel free to like, comment, and share! 

Want me to discuss a topic?? Let me know by commenting below!

 

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3 thoughts on “Feature Friday: Ese Okoro”

  1. What an inspirational blog. This is why I find athletes so inspirational – especially when they share the same faith as me. Best wishes to you, Ese, as God continues to work His purposes out in your life.

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