Chioma Ajunwa

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Chioma Ajunwa
Personal information
Born (1970-12-25) 25 December 1970 (age 43)
Umuihiokwu, Nigeria

Chioma Ajunwa-Opara, MON (born 25 December 1970) – also known as Chioma Ajunwa – is a Nigerian former athlete who specialised in the long jump. After various setbacks in her career she achieved fame when she became the first athlete in her country to win an Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and to date remains Nigeria's only individual Olympic gold medalist.[1] Ajunwa is also an officer with the Nigerian Police Force.[2]

Early life[edit]

Born into was she describes as "a very poor home", Ahiazu-Mbaise-native Ajunwa was the last of nine children, with six brothers and two sisters. Her father died while she was still young, leaving his wife to solely support a large family. At eighteen Ajunwa, who had been a keen athletics participant during her school years, gained admission into university but was unable to register due to her mother's inability to pay the fees. She later decided to become a motor mechanic, but abandoned the idea following her mother's disapproval.[3][4][5]

Football[edit]

As a professional sportswoman Ajunwa originally played football for the Nigerian women's team and was a member of The Falcons during the Women's World Cup in 1991, but as she was constantly benched her skill was seldom used.[6] Of her short-lived football career Ajunwa has stated "I've not regretted the decision [to leave football] because I've made my mark in athletics. I could have continued with football but there was a particular coach... He knew then that I was the best player in the team but he decided to keep me on the bench throughout our matches so I left the team's camp."[7]

Track and Field[edit]

Ajunwa performed as a track and field athlete and specialised in 100m, 200m and long jump, eventually competing at the African Championships in 1989 and the All Africa Games in 1991 where she won gold medals in the long jump before being banned from the sport for four years after failing a drug test in 1992, despite Ajunwa maintaining her innocence.[8]

Following the completion of her suspension, Ajunwa went on to become the first West-African woman, as well as the first Nigerian, to win an Olympic gold medal in a track and field event when she emerged victorious in the women's long jump event at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, with a jump length of 7.12 meters (on her first attempt) during the final. Her feat, however, was overshadowed by Nigeria's Olympic football team – renamed the Dream Team for the tournament – who matched her achievement when they beat Argentina to win a gold medal. In 2003 she stated in an interview with The Vanguard "I toiled so much for this country, but then I was dumped. So many people wanted me out of the way. Sports directors, chairmen and their deputies and secretaries all wanted me out. It was a galling experience. That I could be the only individual gold medal winner for Nigeria in over half- a-century of participation in the Olympics and I could still be treated like a scourge, I couldn't believe it."[9]

Recognition[edit]

Member of the Order of Niger[edit]

Following her Olympic gold medal at Atlanta '96, Ajunwa was given a national award – Member of the Order of Niger (MON) – by the then Head of State of Nigeria Sani Abacha, but complained that she was overlooked compared to the Nigerian football team claiming "I was given the MON award, right, but without 'E-Y.' When I heard of what was given to my brothers in the Super Eagles for winning the Nations Cup, I was amazed because you can see the difference...I'm not envious of anybody but this is the time to express my feelings that I deserve more."[10]

Community Chieftaincy Title[edit]

Imo State awarded her a chieftaincy title.

Nigeria Golden Jubilee Independence Awards[edit]

On 1 October 2010, Nigeria celebrated its 50th Independence anniversary.[11] As part of that celebration, on Thursday 30 September 2010, President Goodluck Jonathan conferred special Golden Jubilee Independence Awards on 50 distinguished Nigerians and friends of Nigeria including Ajunwa for their contributions to the development of the country.

Appointments and membership of bodies[edit]

  1. Chairperson of the Women's Development Committee of Imo State Football Association.[12] 2011
  2. Member of Committee on the Revival of the Nigeria Academicals Sports Competitions.[13] 2011

Anti-doping campaign[edit]

On Friday 30 April 2010 Ajunwa delivered a paper on "War against the use of illicit Drugs in Sports" at an Interactive Session organised by Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) for Athletes as part of the 3rd Leg of AFN Golden League at Yaba College of Technology Sports Complex, Yaba. An abridged version of this paper titled "Fighting the Root Causes of Doping in Athletics" is available online.

In the second half of 2010, Ajunwa stepped up her anti-doping activities by starting an integrated campaign aptly tagged 'Compete Fair & Clean'. This personally-financed initiative involves communicating anti-doping messages directly to athletes and coaches at athletic events. Awareness and Red-flag workshops and seminars are being organised with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN). Ganners are placed at athletic events and informative publications as well as t-shirts with anti-doping messages are given to athletes and coaches.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Chioma Ajunwa Biography and Statistics". Sports Reference. Retrieved 14 October 2009. 
  2. ^ Chioma Ajunwa-Opara: From Olympics Success to Busting Crime
  3. ^ Chioma Ajunwa, mon Nigeria’s first Olympic gold medallist: My bitter-sweet story
  4. ^ "Ajunwa Chioma NGR" (Web page). iaaf.org. International Association of Athletics Federations. 1996–2009. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  5. ^ Poverty Made Me a Mechanic
  6. ^ Chioma AjunwaFIFA competition record
  7. ^ I'll never regret dumping football for athletics – Chioma Ajunwa
  8. ^ "Ajunwa Chioma NGR" (Web page). iaaf.org. International Association of Athletics Federations. 1996–2009. Retrieved 24 March 2012. 
  9. ^ Nigeria: I Suffered Too Much for Nigeria – Chioma Ajunwa
  10. ^ Fallout of AFCON presidential largesse: I need house in Abuja – Chioma Ajunwa
  11. ^ "50 Nigerians Honored | Nigeria's 50th Independence". Nigeriaat50.gov.ng. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  12. ^ "AJUNWA JOINS IMO FA | Blog | Complete Sports". Completesportsnigeria.com. 7 April 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 
  13. ^ "Odegbami Heads Committee on Revival of Academics Sports | Blog | Complete Sports". Completesportsnigeria.com. 7 April 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2012. 

External links[edit]