Nigerian track queens Mary Onyali and Falilat Ogunkoya dominated the continent and were massive inspirations to many including Nigeria’s first Olympic gold medal winner, Chioma Ajunwa.
Ajunwa won gold in the long jump event at the 1996 Olympic Games and remains the only Nigerian to win gold in the summer games.
Speaking about her inspiration, the former Super Falcons player said she “left” football and returned to Athletics because of qualities Onyali and Ogunkoya showed each time on the tracks.
She told brila.net that she looked up to the vets and their achievements in spite of the challenges, both physical and mental.
“Well, the persons I was looking up to while I was active was Mary Onyali and Falilat Ogunkoya because when I came and saw Onyali’s height, I believed if she could run the 100 meters and 200 meters as good as she did, I believed I could do it too because we were of same height.
“That gave me the zeal to go back to track and field; that’s why I left football,” said Ajunwa.
“Since then I looked up to them, you don’t have to be the best in the world to inspire somebody, there are certain attributes in a person’s character that could be the ingredient. Both of them had self-belief and they never relented.”
Ajunwa was 5.3 ft (Onyali was 5.5 ft) when she won gold in 1996, her feat remains a record in Nigeria, although Ogunkoya was the first winner of an Olympic medal.
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