Not many athletes are able to live out their dream, especially by the time they reach legal drinking age, but Oklahoma State star Courtney Dike did just that. She helped guide her native country of Nigeria to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup final in Canada Sunday. Nigeria took home silver as they came up short to Germany, 1-0, in an extra time showdown.
Courtney's highlight of the tournament came when the star forward put her name in the record books. She set a FIFA record in her first start by scoring a goal in just 18 seconds against Korea Republic.
Dike ended the tournament with two goals after finding the net again in a semi-final match against Korea.
"It was amazing," Dike said of her experience after practice Wednesday. "It's a dream to go to the World Cup in the first place, but to get to the final in your first World Cup, it's something you'll remember forever. The experience was awesome. Getting to play at that level taught me so much and I'm just ready to be able to put in what I learned over there over here and help my team out and maybe do a little bit better."
Dike's experience was special, but the Cowgirls' leading scorer wasn't just playing for herself and her country. Dike's older brother, Bright Dike, would have received an opportunity to represent Nigeria in the FIFA World Cup this summer in Brazil, but the Major League Soccer standout tore his Achilles tendon before the tournament began. Bright made the trip to watch his younger sister in the final after playing in his first match back from injury for the Toronto FC.
"He left a little note in the locker room saying 'good luck, play your best,' then I saw him when I went on the field, so that was just an amazing feeling to see my brother, my inspiration watching me play in the World Cup," Dike said.
Dike went on to explain what an inspiration her older brother has been in her already successful career.
"He's the ultimate inspiration," Dike said with a smile. "When I was just a couple years old I was just following him around, watching all his games and now I've learned from all his mistakes playing. He's been playing a lot longer than I have, so he's always someone that's helping me out and telling me what to do, what to do better, encouraging me, and telling me what I need to improve on, so it's been great, it's been awesome."
Just a sophomore, Dike already has the potential to exceed her brother's achievements and she just continues to add more weapons to her arsenal. As if leading her team to the Big 12 Tournament Final last year didn't give her enough confidence this season, the Preseason All-Big 12 selection says she now has "100-times" more confidence after her international experience. Hopefully Dike's confidence will spread to the struggling Oklahoma State squad, which dropped its first two games of the season without its best offensive weapon. OSU has been aggressive in both games, but failed to capitalize on opportunities and Dike's return may be just the glue to fix that problem.
"You don't get as many chances (in the World Cup), so hopefully I can take advantage of every chance I get here. It should, obviously, be a lot here than I got in the World Cup, so hopefully I can finish all my chances and improve on my shot-to-goal ratio," Dike said.
Dike had her fun, but now she must get the 0-2 Cowgirls back on track to a Big 12 title and help guide them through one of the toughest schedules in the nation.
"It was definitely hard (to see my team struggle). It was always in the back of my mind how we were doing," said Dike. "I was disappointed, but the season's early and there's still a lot left of the season, so there's nothing to be down about right now."
Dike's return will be a big one. Not only is it the Cowgirls' home opener, but OSU will take on No. 2 Florida State Friday night at 7 p.m. Admission into the game will also be free.