Chioma Ajunwa-Okpara is Nigeria’s first Olympic gold medalist and it seems that over the years she has gotten better and is still very much an achiever.
According to ‘This Day’, she has been promoted to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police just barely a week after launching a foundation aimed at discovering new sporting stars in the nation.
With this singular effort to give back to her society while working tirelessly as a police officer, Mrs Chioma is definitely worthy of note.
Here are 7 things you should know about this incredible lady
1. Her childhood was far from comfortable
Born into what 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.
2. She started her sports career as a footballer
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.
3. As a track athlete, every thing wasn’t smooth sailing for Chioma
Ajunwa performed as a track and field athlete and specialised in the 100m, 200m and long jump. She competed at the 1990 Commonwealth Games, winning a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 metres relay, and competed at the African Championships in 1989 and the All Africa Games in 1991 where she won gold medals in the long jump. Ajunwa was banned from the sport for four years after failing a drug test in 1992, despite maintaining her innocence.
4. Chioma made history at Olympics 1996 with an unbroken record till date
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. Till date she remains the only individual gold medal winner for Nigeria.
5. She has a federal recognition and a chieftaincy title from her state of origin
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. She also got a chieftaincy title from her native home in Imo state.
6. She started an anti-doping campaign in sport
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.
7. Chioma gave birth to a set of triplets at age 40
After several years of marriage, Chioma finally gave birth to a set of triplets; two boys and a girl.