06/12/2012 08:40 EDT | Updated 08/12/2012 05:12 EDT

Olympic hopeful becomes Canadian citizen

An Ottawa track-and-field athlete has leaped a tall hurdle in his quest to compete for Canada at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England.

Sékou Kaba, 21, is a top-ranking hurdler who is looking to participate in the 110-metre hurdles event at the Summer Games that run from July 27 to August 12.

Kaba, the top point-scoring hurdler in Canadian university sports this past season, had to gain his citizenship by the end of June to participate in the Canadian Olympic trials in Calgary.

Now the University of Ottawa student will be at the starting line for his event after passing his Canadian citizenship test. He said he expects to receive his Canadian passport this week.

"It's a lot of weight off my shoulders," he told Ottawa Morning host Robyn Bresnahan Tuesday.

"I can strictly focus on training now and not the rest. For now, I just have to keep training hard and run faster."

As a Canadian resident but not citizen, Kaba had been able to compete in university events but was moved to the second-tier finals due to his lack of a citizenship. That rule made many events almost useless, he told the CBC in early May.

Kaba was born in the West African country of Guinea and moved to the United States when he was 14, before coming to Canada two years later.

He submitted his citizenship application in 2011 but had not heard back until last month.

Kaba and his coach had questioned whether the young athlete's hard work and preparation would be all for naught. But the athlete said he expects to hit the standard and compete at the Olympic Games.