Remember that Onitsha man who carved his Silver Spoon by Himself? – The Francis Obikwelu Story

Remember that Onitsha man who carved his Silver Spoon by Himself? – The Francis Obikwelu Story

Francis Obiorah Obikwelu, born 22 November 1978 is a retired Nigerian-born Portuguese sprinter, who specialized in 100 meters and 200 meters.

Obikwelu obtained Portuguese citizenship in 2001. He is the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 meters. From that race, he also set the European record in the event at 9.86, which has been tied twice by Jimmy Vicaut, but not beaten.


 

Obikwelu holds the record for the fastest time in the 100 m set by a European competitor with a time of 9.86 seconds. He finished second in the 100 m at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, the first medal ever in athletics sprinting events for Portugal. He won 100 m and 200 m in 2006 at the European Championships in Athletics and became the first male athlete to win both 100 m and 200 m in the European Championship.

 

Obikwelu was voted Waterford Crystal European Male Athlete of the Year for 2006 by the European Athletic Association, in an internet poll open to member federations, media, and the general public.

 

Born in Nigerian, Onitsha, Obikwelu spent his childhood in Nigeria and was already manifesting his sporty skills in his early teenage years. At the age of 14, one of Obikwelu’s football coaches in Nigeria noticed him and suggested he try out athletics. After two years he was representing Nigeria in the 1994 African Junior Championships and won the silver medal in the 400 meters.

 

At age 16, after competing at the 1994 World Junior Championships he created a path for himself and decided to remain in Portugal. After being rejected by both Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Sporting Clube de Portugal, he had to work for a while as a construction worker in the Algarve. He decided to learn Portuguese, and his teacher put him in contact with Belenenses, where he restarted practicing.

 

While living in Portugal, Francis was adopted by a lady who he now proudly refers to as his “mother”. He then made a decision to run for Portugal, Obikwelu took the decision because of neglect by Nigerian sports officials when he was injured while representing Nigeria in Sydney, Australia. “He had to go to Canada to undergo an operation on his knee spending his own money.” He became a Portuguese citizen in October 2001.

 

Although Obikwelu announced his retirement from competitive athletics after failing to qualify for the 100 m finals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but retracted his statement, agreeing to honor the last year of his contract with his track club.[3] Obikwelu won the 100 m gold medal at the 2009 Lusophony Games.

 

However, Both his athletics achievements, his life story, and his personality has made him a popular figure in his adoptive country, where he is nicknamed Chico, the short form of the Portuguese version of his first name.

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