Israel Olatunde Became Ireland’s Newest Sporting Hero On Tuesday Night

Irish sport gained a new hero on Tuesday night when Dundalk sprinter Israel Olatunde not only reached the final of the 100 meters at the European Championships, but also set a new national record by finishing sixth overall.

With a time of 10:17 he is the fastest Irishman ever and the youngster was the star of Tuesday’s show in Munich.

His excited post-race interview, coupled with his explosive pace, make us confident that Israel Olatunde is a future star for Irish athletics.

Israel Olatunde shines in the 100m final in Munich

UCD student Israel Olatunde started at the European Championships in Munich as a beacon of hope for the future of Irish athletics. He emerged from the 100m on Tuesday as the new star of Irish sport.

Olatunde was born in Dundalk to Nigerian parents. Already in February he spoke with David Gillick for on the importance of his legacy and the changing environment for African-Irish athletes:

It’s like all of our parents made a sacrifice to give their children a better chance in life and it really means a lot to be able to make our community proud.

When I was growing up there weren’t a lot of African Irish people in the media or people to look at, so to be able to inspire people who are younger than us who are African and Irish.

Hopefully we can see more African-Irish people in sport and in general chase their dreams.

As an adult, people will always look at you differently because they are not used to it. Some people are a little meaner than others, but it is what it is I think. But in athletics it’s different.

I can only speak for myself, but I haven’t had a bad experience as an Afro-Irish athlete in athletics. I feel like everyone is really supportive. That’s what I really love about the sport, it’s got people from all different cultures and backgrounds coming together to compete to be the fastest

He certainly inspired many across the country with his sensational runs on Tuesday night.

Arguably the highlight of the evening at the Olympic Stadium was Olatunde’s stunned reaction when he found out he had a place in the 100m final.

His brilliant run in the last semi-final earned him a spot on lane seven for the final later on Tuesday night.

The flagship event of European athletics and an Irishman competing alongside Olympic champions like Marcell Jacobs. It was an extraordinarily proud moment for Olatunde and for the Irish crowd.

In the same conversation with Gillick in February, Olatunde spoke to us about the influence that previous generations of Irish sprinters had on him. He said:

I started athletics a bit late, just after Paul [Hession]Time.

But still looking back at all the great Irish sprinters like you, Paul, Derval O’Rourke, it’s really an inspiration to see you come to the top of the game. It’s an inspiration to all of us younger athletes, we may not have seen you compete but we see the results and the legacy you left behind. We definitely want to achieve these goals.

Like Paul is a great athlete with a 6.61 [60m] Platte is crazy when I think about it. I want to be there one day, respect to Paul of course, but I want to be there one day.

His determination to reach the level of Hession and O’Rourke is palpable, but he also appears to be a down-to-earth and humble young man. Reaching the final alone for Olatunde would have been a huge success story, especially when you surpass the performances of Rhasidat Adeleke and Ciara Mageean in reaching their respective finals.

READ HERE: Any Irish medalist at the European Athletics Championships

But the Dundalk man pulled off one last brilliant trick in the final, setting the fastest time in Irish history [10.17] To finish sixth and finish just 0.04 seconds off third place.

It was nothing short of sensational from Israel Olatunde, and he was delighted again when the Times revealed he had indeed claimed one of Paul Hession’s national records.

The most exciting thing about Israel Olatunde is that, incredibly, he’s only 20 years old. With two years to go before the Paris Olympics he will be determined to continue from here, but finishing sixth in a European final at just 20 years old is a truly remarkable return.

SEE ALSO: “Beating England at every sport is pretty cool for an Irishman”

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