RBC Olympian Bolade Ajomole warming up for an international competition
Even a blizzard couldn’t keep Olympian Bolade Ajomale from spreading the word about RBC Training Ground
Bolade Ajomale had an Olympic-sized message to deliver to a group of young people in Toronto, and he wasn’t going to let a snowstorm get in the way of delivering it.
His message? Getting involved in an Olympic sport can change your life, and it’s never been easier to get started.
“It was a real blizzard here in Toronto on the day I was supposed to visit The Spot (a youth drop-in centre in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood), but I remember being that age and not having much direction, so I was determined to make it,” said Ajomale, who won a Bronze medal for Canada in the 4x100m relay at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
The sprinter, who is part of the RBC Olympians program, shared stories about growing up in Canada with Nigerian parents, racing against celebrities like Usain Bolt, and the benefits of things like routine and discipline that come from sport, in hopes of inspiring youth to unlock their potential at an upcoming RBC Training Ground event.
“Bolade had a great message about believing in yourself, but what really made some of the youth sit up and go ‘whoa’ was when he told them about RBC Training Ground,” said Ali Andeku, Sports and Recreation Coordinator at The Spot. “The young people in our community tend to gravitate to sports like basketball that are really saturated, but now here’s this cool program designed to find hidden athletic talent and remove barriers to potentially becoming an Olympian in different sports, no matter what your background is.”
After Bolade’s talk, 19 of the youth began registering for an upcoming local RBC Training Ground event. A response that Andeku called ‘amazing’.
Youth from The Spot posing for the camera with Bolade’s Olympic Bronze medal from the 2016 Olympic Games
“Most of the young people at The Spot face a lot of challenges, including the lack of opportunity and feelings of marginalization that often come with compounded systemic barriers, so it can be hard to get through to them,” said Andeku. “But Bolade did. Here is this Olympian who has raced against Usain Bolt, but still took the time during a snowstorm to have a real conversation and share his message.”
RBC Training Ground, run in partnership with the COC and several national sport organizations, runs free testing events across the country. One of these events is at York University, close to The Spot, the youth drop-in space within the Jane/Finch Centre.
Bolade emphasized that there was nothing to lose by coming out, and told his audience he’d make introductions to fellow RBC Olympians like Pierce LePage and Cynthia Appiah at the event. He stressed that sport is more than just getting medals and stepping on the podium. It can also lead to obtaining university scholarships, learning skills for future careers, and connecting with real-life role models (like Bolade has become at The Spot).
“You just never know,” said Bolade, who grew up playing a variety of sports until the age of 16, when a scout encouraged him to try sprinting. “They might have some athletic ability that makes them suited for an Olympic sport, but either way they will have fun and get to meet Olympians who look like them, have backgrounds like theirs, and will welcome them. I told them that they might come away from the experience with a new Olympic journey, but for sure they’ll be able to make whatever dream they have Olympic-sized.”
In just eight years RBC Training Ground has tested thousands of athletes and helped hundreds of them train full-time for the Olympics. Thirteen have gone on to compete at the Olympics, with seven bringing home medals (many in sports they had no experience in prior to participating in a qualifying event).
“One of our goals is to open the minds of youth to new ideas, so having someone like Bolade reach out not just with inspirational messages but also with a real chance to experience the Olympic atmosphere was amazing,” said Andeku. “Representation really does matter, so having someone they can relate to can make a huge difference. And who knows, maybe we’ll see someone from The Spot on the podium one day.”
For additional stories and content like this, follow @RBCTrainingGround on Instagram and visit RBCTrainingGround.ca You’ll find a full calendar of events, testing opportunities, information on how to participate in your area, and more.