The fastest man in Ireland has his sights firmly set on reaching the Olympics in Paris in 2024 after he retained his national 100m title at Morton Stadium in Santry last weekend. Israel Olatunde cruised to victory in 10.51 seconds to confirm his place at the top of the Irish sprinting ladder. The 20-year-old former Marist student lives in Castle Ross in Dundalk and his athletic talents were honed locally in Dún Dealgan AC where he was coached by Gerry McArdle.
His parents Elizabeth and Isaac are from Nigeria and they moved to Ireland with their son Gabriel over 20 years ago in search of a better life. Baby Sharon was born shortly after the Olatunde’s arrived in Dundalk in 1999 before Israel followed two years later.
Sharon, a talented athlete in her youth, inspired Israel to take up running and his natural speed was apparent to all in Dún Dealgan AC with local coach Gerry McArdle taking the youngster under his wing to help develop that talent.
In 2019, the then 16-year old ran Irish Under-18 records for 60m and 100m to announce himself on the national stage. Israel started on the Ad Astra scholarship in UCD where he is studying computer science. According to the sprint sensation he was delighted to retain hi snational title last weekend especially given the fact his family and friends were there to witness it.
“It felt great to be out there competing against the best sprinters in the country and to retain my title in front of my family and friends just made it all the more special,” stated Israel.
“I knew there was probably a bit of a target on my back given I came into the race as the national champion but I just kept telling myself that it didn’t matter what I had done in the past and it was all about focusing on myself and making sure I got my start right and do all the things my coach has taught me to do.
“It was a great race and it was fantastic to race again my training partner and friend Joseph Ojewemi who ran a great race too. It’s just great to be out there competing again and trying to progress after the stop start seasons during Covid. It was difficult to stay motivated with no competitions on the horizon but I’m lucky to have a great support group around me and my community in Dundalk are fantastic and are always encouraging me.
“For me the ultimate dream is to support myself and my family through athletics and I need to keep on working hard to make that happen. The Olympics in Paris is for sure a goal of mine and I have my eyes on that for sure. I need to keep improving and keep working hard and if I do that everything will take care of itself,” stated Israel.