By Yemi Babalola Lagos, Nigeria.
Our Amazon for this week, most especially as we celebrate the International Women’s Day is Chioma Ajunwa-Opara who is popularly known as Chioma Ajunwa is a Nigerian athlete born on December 25, 1970. The Imo state indigene was born in Umuchukwu, Orumba south LGA of Anambra state. Ajunwa was the last of 9 children that includes 6 brothers and 2 sisters, she lost her father at an early age.
Ajunwa was discovered by the Nigerian police force sport unit, she began her sport career as a footballer for the Nigerian women’s team and was a member of the falcons during the women’s world cup in 1991 in china, although she was seldom featured. She eventually forayed into the track and field aspect of sports in 1992.
Chioma Ajunwa performed as a track and field athlete specializing in 100m, 200, and long jump, she competed at the African championships in 1989 and the All African Games in 1991 where she won Gold medals in long jump, before being banned from all sports by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) for 4 years after failing a drug test in 1992, despite maintaining her innocence of the test results.
During the ban Chioma Ajunwa relocated to the United Kingdom, where she was managed by Nigerian football legend Segun Odegbami. It was during the period that Chioma Ajunwa experienced the bitter pill of rejection from the Nigerian sports officials.
But then, elements changed her misfortune of 1992 into the greatest triumph of her life 4 years later with her once in a lifetime jump in Atlanta, USA.
Following the completion of the IAAF ban, Chioma Ajunwa returned to the tracks and went on to become the first West African woman, as well as first and only Nigerian woman, to win an Olympic Gold medal in a track and field event, after emerging victorious in the women’s long jump at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 in the united states of America, with a 7.12meters jump on her first attempt during the finals.
She further went on to win a silver medal for long jump at the world indoor championships in 1997 in Paris, France.
Chioma Ajunwa was recognized with a national award of Member of the Order of Niger (MON) following her Olympic Gold medal by then military head of state Gen. Sani Abacha. Though it seemed to her as consolation to what was given to the Nigerian Dream Team who was also won a Gold medal at the same Olympics.
Ajunwa’s accolades did not end there, as former president Goodluck Jonathan at the Nigeria golden jubilee independence awards, which held on Thursday September 30, 2010 conferred special awards on 50 distinguished Nigerians, including Chioma Ajunwa for their contributions to the development of Nigeria.
Though not currently active on the tracks, Chioma is still very much a part of the development of sports in Nigeria. She is currently, the chairperson of the Women’s Development Committee of Imo State Football Association. Ajunwa is also a member of committee on the revival of the Nigerian academicals sports competition, and his continually been an advocate for female athletes in Nigeria.
Chioma Ajunwa is married to Howell Chidera and has 3 children, which she delivered as triplets in 2012. She is currently a police officer with the Nigerian police force, the path that brought her gift to limelight.
Chioma Ajunwa is our amazon for the week, with exploits in track and field for Nigeria. To all the other wonderful women out there, wishing you a happy International Women’s Day
For further discussion on other sporting interest, you can follow me on twitter on my handle @yemzd or on Instagram: oluyemz.