In 2008, UH track and field athlete Seun Adigun figured she was destined for graduate school following the disappointment of not qualifying for the Beijing Olympics.
“I was in my bed just looking at the ceiling, like why I am not there,” Adigun said. “I didn’t quite hit the standard in time for Nigeria to invite me. I knew that I was on an upslope and I knew I was a few inches off a few hurdles away from really breaking through. I just needed the opportunity.”
One year later, following the continued pursuit of her Olympic goal, Adigun ran an 8.09 in the 60-meter hurdles at the New Balance Invitational in New York, setting a school record while tapping into the top five in the NCAA and entering the world rankings at no. 14.
“I came home and I looked in the facility and there were all these little papers posted up by one of my teammates that read ‘not just in the city, not just in the state, not just in the conference’ and at the bottom it said, ‘number 14 in the world,’” Adigun said. “They were all over the building. It sunk in at that moment that there might be some hope for this.”
The 25-year-old hurdler, who now serves as assistant track and field coach for UH and will compete in the London Olympics, spent her childhood in Chicago after her parents moved from Nigeria in the ’80s. At that time, Adigun knew if she was to continue training, a change of scenery must be in store.
“In the 2005 winter in Chicago, I can vividly remember walking down the street and it was snowing; the wind was blowing so hard that I couldn’t open my eyes,” Adigun said. “(UH) just stuck out to me and it was literally calling my name.”
While the palm trees and warm weather drew her in, it was the more important things that made her stay.
“This school, just everything about its program here, the academics, the city itself – there’s just so much promise in this city,” Adigun said. “There’s so much hope for people like me who are just looking to be somebody in the world.”
That hope, along with a diligent training program, has provided Adigun the opportunity to compete at this year’s London Games in the 100-meter hurdles for Nigeria. Her hurdle technical coach Leroy Burrell, who also serves as UH’s head coach for track and field, has high hopes for Adigun in handling the pressures of the Olympics.
“I think she’s going to handle it accordingly,” Burrell said. “There are times when it can get a little overwhelming and I will be there to tell them everything is good.”
Adigun joins Errol Nolan (4×400-meter relay, Jamaica) and Anastasia Pozdniakova (3-meter springboard diving, Russia) as competitors representing UH in the Summer Games, something she takes tremendous pride in.
“I think that it shows the progress of this university,” Adigun said. “I think this helps show the rest of the country that the University of Houston is in it to win it.”