MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – She’s the greatest hammer thrower in Gophers history. Now that Temi Ogunrinde’s college career is over, she’s setting her sights on the Olympics.
The list of accolades is as long as her record-setting throws: School record holder, Big Ten record holder, the only hammer thrower to ever win three straight Big Ten titles, a first-team All-American – and the person most surprised by it all is her.
“Honestly, there’s no reason in my mind. I still am wrapping my head around my whole career here, it’s just such a blessing because it doesn’t make sense how it all happened,” Ogunrinde said.
There is no hammer throw in high school track and field in Minnesota. Ogunrinde was a sprinter at Park Cottage Grove. Her Gophers coaches saw something and asked her to make the switch after her first semester.
“They just thought I was athletic enough to give it a shot,” Ogunrinde said.
How does a sprinter go from never having tried it to best ever in under four years?
“I can’t wrap my head around that,” Ogunrinde said.
In some ways, it makes her next pursuit seem rather small in comparison, except it’s the Olympics.
“So no longer maroon and gold, now green and white, and I’m trying to push for 2020,” Ogunrinde said.
The green and white of Nigeria. Though Temi was born in Minnesota, she’s training to try and earn a spot on the Nigerian national team for next summer’s Olympics. For her, the pursuit is bigger than sports. It’s personal.
“I wrestled with it in the beginning because I am Nigerian and I’m also an American, and those are two parts of me that I love dearly,” Ogunrinde said. “But when I really thought about it, I thought, what a cool way it would be to kind of honor my parents and my heritage.”
Temi’s parents met while studying in America – her dad at the U of M, her mom at St. Kate’s.
“And they established a life here. A lot of my family is still in Nigeria, but they chose to stay here, raise a family and have us grow up here, too,” Ogunrinde said. “It’s always so cool because when I really think about it, it’s like, my parents left their families, what they knew, what is even comfortable to come here to do more. But then also raising us in a Nigerian culture. And again, like, I’m proud of my culture, and they made sure we don’t lose sight of where we come from. ”
Temi has dual citizenship because her parents were born there and because she was born here, so she’s eligible to compete for either country.
“It’s something that I get to wear proud and let everyone know that this is one of the countries that I represent and that I’m proud to represent,” Ogunrinde said. “To know that this goal is attainable is really exciting for me. I hope I can do it, and my coach and I believe if I work hard, I can do it. But it’s definitely not in the bag. There’s a lot that needs to be done. I’ve gotta really fine-tune my technique, I have to throw significantly farther.”
But for someone with a history of surpassing all expectations…
“I thank God for this because it’s just a cool story, and I really do thank my coaches because they took a chance on me, and they saw something I didn’t even see in myself,” Ogunrinde said.