Ibrahim Ayorinde ’23 prepares for his 400-meter heat at the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, in March.
MI News/NurPhoto via AP
A record-setting sprinter at Princeton, Ayorinde switched to running the 400 meters after graduation

Ibrahim Ayorinde ’23 is Princeton’s indoor and outdoor 200-meter record holder, but he’ll have to run twice as far to make the Canadian national team for this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris.

Ayorinde never competed in the 400 meters at Princeton, except for running the occasional leg in the 4x400 relay, and yet the event is his best chance at earning a ticket to France.  

“I was always a strong sprinter, but I wasn’t really open to running the 400 at the time,” said Ayorinde, who was a member of the team that set Princeton’s outdoor 4x100 meter relay record at the NCAA East Regional in 2022. “But going through this year with the Olympic opportunity I figured I’d give it a shot.”

Team Canada already has well established 100- and 200-meter runners, and its 4x100 relay looks set. Running the 400 gives Ayorinde a chance to qualify individually or be selected for Canada’s 4x400 men’s or mixed relays.

Ayorinde got a boost to his chances when he was invited to represent Canada at the World Indoor Championships in Glasgow, Scotland, in March. Ayorinde finished fifth in his 400 heat in 48.05 seconds. It was only his fourth time racing the distance.

“I’m excited for that,” he told PAW before the trip. “I’ll be able to run on the senior team and be able to gain that experience so hopefully if I go to the Olympics, it won’t be my first time running on that stage.”

Ayorinde has been playing catch-up to get up to speed in his new event. After running the 200 at the 2023 NCAA East Regional and then graduating, a stress reaction in his back forced him to sit out for three months before resuming training in September. Still focusing on core rehab daily, Ayorinde travels an hour from his Oakville, Ontario, home to train in north Toronto with Canada sprints coach Charles Allen.

“I kind of enjoy how he approaches it,” Ayorinde said. “He takes the perspective of ‘I’m still a sprinter,’ so I’ll have a couple more sets here and there, but he makes sure I don’t lose my speed, which I think is the biggest asset for me in the 400.”

Ayorinde committed to Princeton before he even visited campus, in part because former head coach Fred Samara emailed him back quickly, confident in his potential. After an injury and the COVID-19 pandemic cost him his first two years, Ayorinde rewarded Samara’s faith and sprints coach Robert Abdullah’s workout plan with school records of 10.22 seconds in the 100 and 20.51 in the 200 at the 2022 Virginia Challenge.

“I don’t know if I would have gotten this fast if I had gone to any other school just because I feel like the way Coach Abdullah does stuff, he really focuses on development,” Ayorinde said. “He helped me. When I came in, I wasn’t that fast of a sprinter.”

Abdullah convinced a motivated group of sprinters that they had the ability to run as fast as anyone in the NCAAs. Ayorinde responded to that message and the in-team competition from the likes of Daniel Duncan ’25, Simang’aliso Ndhlovu ’23, Greg Sholars ’23, and Kaden Reynolds ’26 as much as meets.

“We all pushed each other at practice,” he said. “It made it easy to be good because everyone wanted to be good.”

Ayorinde’s Olympic dream seemed a bit far-fetched, based on his times, until his breakout junior year, though he had represented Canada before internationally in one meet at the under-18 level. He will compete for a spot on the senior team at the Canadian Track and Field Championships in Montreal from June 27-30, barely six months after running 46.74 in his first open 400 at the Bob Pollock Invitational on Jan. 26.

Ayorinde has poured his energy into his first — and maybe only — chance at the Olympics. “Ninety-five percent of me says 2028 is a little too far. I’m in a position now where I could possibly do it,” he said. Honored as Princeton’s PNC Student-Athlete Achiever last spring, he put a consulting job with McKinsey & Co. on hold for a year to be able to focus entirely on training.