We are starting off 2022 with an excellent piece by Deji Ogyingbo on Sasha Zhoya, the phenomenal French sprinter who is exciting many track fans and the athletics fans in France!
What do you think? Let us know at email@example.com about Deji’s treatise on this exciting sprint/hurdler? Who else should we cover?
Sasha Zhoya, World U20 Presser, photo courtesy of World Athletics/ Roger Sedres
Sasha Zhoya: The next face of global sprinting
The world of Track and Field has been in dire need of the next face of the sport. One to lift its global appeal to the minds of not just the followers, but to new entrants to the sport. Usain Bolt was the last big name to wear the crown, and since he retired in 2017, no athlete has been able to have a firm grip on the throne “the big man” abdicated when he left the sport.
The Jamaican took the sport to heights unimaginable that his name became synonymous with speed, with people brandishing it in their everyday lexicon even after his retirement. Bolt met with Presidents, Princes, Celebrities; he was the superstar of the sport.
Part of what made him likable was the flair and razmataz he brought when competing, coupled with the way he obliterates his rivals on the track while winning in style, his breaking of records that seemed untouchable as well as his unique celebration, he was the whole package.
To be fair, a couple of names have had a shot at carrying the sport on its shoulders, but none have had a go at it for too long. Wayde Van Niekerk, Noah Lyles, and even more recently, Sha’ Carri Richardson, but something was always missing from the pot. Either they don’t have the consistency of results to match their off-track antics or the dazzle that comes with attracting global audiences outside of the sport is missing.
This brings us to Australian-born French athlete, Sasha Zhoya. The talented 19-year-Old has impressed the world of athletics with his mastery of not three disciplines, with his specialty coming in the hurdles. This year, however, has seen him dominate the 110m hurdles over the European and World circuit as he broke records for fun.
What makes him special?
In summary, Zhoya is the ultimate showman and his results speak for themselves. Born in Perth, Australia to a French mum and a Zimbabwean father, Zhoya takes pride in affiliating himself to each country. He speaks English, French, and Shona fluently, while his understanding of the sport is beyond compare.
His father, Yonah is a musician, while his mother, Catherine, was a former international skier. Little wonder he delved into contemporary dance and ballet while in his early teens while competing in track. These days, his focus is now entirely on the hurdles as he knows it deserves his utmost attention if he’s to become one of the all-time greats.
In a world where sportsmen are the cynosure of people who are looking for every flaw in them, it’s almost like Zhoya can do no wrong. In some sense, he seems infallible. Almost like a kid who knows the exact shelf in a store to buy his favorite comic book, the chances are slim. However, athletics and Zhoya seem a match made in heaven.
On the track, he’s a delight to the crowd. Zhoya almost always canters to victory in all his races, a feature that brings a certain Bolt to mind. His theatrics after he wins, photo ops with the paparazzi waiting to get exclusive of almost whatever celebration he comes up with after his win.
Best performance for France in 2021
Where else to start from than from his World Record display in Nairobi. Barely 24 hours after he had obliterated the U20 World record in the semis of the men’s 110 hurdles as he clocked 12.93, Zhoya, the European U20 champion cleared all doubts in the final as he stormed to an astonishing 12.72, holding everyone at the Kasarani Stadium captivated, further underlined his status as the greatest ever in the event at U20 level.
When asked how much winning the world title meant to him, the world U20 record-holder said: “It’s my first world medal. I took away the European gold medal and the first goal here was to take away the gold medal, an international world medal, and then the second was to do the record and I got to do both in one race so I’m very happy.”
It however is the first step for Zhoya, and he of all people knows tougher it’s going to get. His path till this point has been smooth sailing and he wants to continue to blaze the trail as he hopes to match what Bolt brought to the sport.
“I’d expect to be one of the greatest. You’ve got Bolt, the young greatest like Mondo Duplantis. I’m just trying to add my name to the list of the greatest athletes of all time. I’ve always had that goal, and hopefully, I can push to that and be one of the greatest”.
What next for Zhoya?
Taking it up a notch to the senior level next season is the goal. Junior hurdles are seven centimeters smaller than the senior ones (99cm to 106cm). So what should we expect from Zhoya at the senior level?
Zhoya is not oblivious of the task ahead. “For now, I’m happy with what I’ve done but we’ve seen a lot of people who have done well in the junior ranks who haven’t made it to the next level,” Zhoya says. “If I can put my name in the senior books and do well at a major championship then I can look back on what I did as a junior in the regard that was progression to my full career.
France has got a knack for producing great sprint hurdlers over the years with the likes of Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, Ludovic Payen, Stéphane Caristan, and Aurel Manga all stepping up to the plate in the past, and recently, none of them have got the grandeur to match what will propel the country to the global stage of athletics the way Zhoya is primed to do.
Zhoya has lived up to the hype so far. As he takes it up a notch higher, there will be tougher hurdles to scale. The phenom and world champion Grant Holloway won over 90% of his races this year, there is the Olympic Champion in Hansel Parchment and some other good hurdlers who have Personal Best times in the range of 13.1- 13.3s. These are the athletes he will come up against for the next couple of years in his quest to achieve greatness.
Paris 2024 is around the corner and Zhoya, like he was at the World Junior Championships this year, will most likely to be the face of the Olympics in his homeland. The stars seem to have aligned for this protégé. Whatever happens, we can’t wait to watch this magic man in action in the future.