- Olympic Gold Medal Winner, CHIOMA AJUNWA
Energetic, Athletic and very Beautiful Chioma Ajunwa is the first and only Nigerian individual Olympic Gold medal winner. She achieved the feat in the long jump event at 1996 Olympic games held in Atlanta, USA.Ever since, no Nigerian athlete has gotten close to equaling or Surpassing her 21- year old record. After her retirement from athletics , Chioma settled down and is now concentrating on her job as a Chief superintendent(CSP) in the Nigerian Police force. In this interview with City People’s Publisher Seye Kehinde and Reporter FEMI FABUNMI, she bares it all on what she is up to in sports and her career as a Nigerian Police Officer.
How is politics affecting sports in the country?
Personally I don’t I like politics, I think Nigerian politics is so dirty,I don’t want to be part of it.Anybody that wants to join politics should be ready to be like the rest.
One of the things that slowed down the development of sports in Nigeria is politics , how do you think we can improve on that?
We have to do away with politics in sports, the people in charge of sports should be allowed to do their thing, that’s the only way we can get significant improvements in sports.
What have you been up to since you retired from doing sports?
At some point I decided to lay low, but as time went on I noticed that keeping quiet hasn’t helped in any way, so I decided to come up with something. I chose to start a foundation where athletes can be kept together. One of the things I noticed while growing up was that athletes were scattered around but no where to keep them together. I started building an edifice where we can keep these athletes. Truth is when one is doing things like this alone the pace will be slow, being a civil servant it can’t be easy but I believe with God all things are possible. I want to use the opportunity to tell athletes that drug doesn’t help, in my early days I had that problem so I need to let these ones know that it is not the way to go.
What is the biggest challenge facing Athletics in Nigeria?
Many measures were put in place during my days, we were identified through primary school sports, local government sports ,there were many other competitions like Mobil, Total etc.These competitions were organized every month and athletes were getting opportunities regularly but nowadays the situation has changed. What we should be doing now is to get companies like Mobil and other corporate organizations to support athletics.
You are a police officer, do you take interest in police games?
Yes I do, I am a member of the organizing committee , they know I am a sports person and they drafted me into it. Remember in those days, many sports personnel were police officers. The police organize police games so that serving police officers who are into sports can get fit and use it as an avenue to train and keep fit.
In the past, athletes used to come back from olympics with medals in athletics, the story has changed now, what is responsible for this?
Certain things we have been doing are not being done properly.The people in charge of sports need to know what it entails to promote athletes . They also need to get talented athletes and keep them together. What we see now is use and dump policy whereby athletes are used when there is competition and dumped after the competition, how can they keep fit like that? This country should know how to discover, groom and nurture athletes that way the best can be gotten from them.
Tell us how you were discovered ?
I was discovered while I was in primary school, I later attended local government competitions from there to state level and I later came for police training in Lagos, I got involved in police games held in Kwara where I won 4 Gold medals.It was at that point that it dawned on people that there is something good about young Chioma Ajunwa. At that point chief Segun Odegbami picked interest in me,since then it has been one success story to another.
With your level of success, you have avoided controversy and stayed calm, tell us how you have been able to achieve this?
Considering that I was coming from a humble background ,I should try to take things easy irrespective of whatever success I attain. I have always known that if one is humble God will take such person higher. I will never allow fame get to my head to the extent that I will start misbehaving.
What went through your mind when you were announced as the Gold medal winner in the Long Jump event at the 96 Olympics ?
It didn’t occur to me that winning such medal was a big deal.I wasn’t that excited, when people climb the medal stage and start shedding tears I just wondered what made them to shed tears. It was when I got to Lagos and saw the crowd that It dawned on me that I had done something spectacular.
How do you feel now that your 21- year record still stands ?
I feel bad that the record still stands,it is quite unfortunate that nobody has gotten closer to breaking the record 21 years after. It is not a record that should stand forever. Athletics federation in conjuction with government should wake up to their responsibilities ,that way we can discover and nurture athletes that can win medals.