Nigeria’s success in global athletics will not be complete if we fail to mention the multi-talented Chioma Ajunwa.
The 46-year old former athlete was recently made the commissioner of Police in her home town. She has been recognized in her country in Nigeria for several efforts in the aspect of national development.
For taking the West Africa country up the international athletics map in 1996, Chioma was honored with the Member of the Order of The Niger(MON), one of the countries prestigious award from the federal government.
Before the 1996 major break, Chioma Ajunwa went home with a bronze medal during the 4x100m relay Commonwealth sports in Auckland in 1990. In 1997, she also won a silver medal during the Long Jump, in Paris.
1. Early Life
Chioma Ajunwa-Opara was born on December 25, 1970 in Umuihiokwu, Ahiazu-Mbaise, Imo State, Nigeria.
At the death of her father at a young age, Chioma who is the last of nine children recalls hardship in life. Her mother struggled to make ends meet in the family. Regardless of her efforts, Ajunwa had to forgo university education because of the financial constraint.
On the bright side, she had already stood out with her excellent athletic skills in school.
2. Worked As A Motor Mechanic
The talented woman who is a wife and mother of three has a degree in breaking norms on both national and international levels. Instead of being idle, wallowing in self-pity, Ajunwa took up a mechanic job. At the time this kind of job was not “ideal” for a woman in the Nigerian society.
With the counsel and disapproval of her mother on her choice of work, Ajunwa gave it up.
3. Tried Her Hands In Soccer
Still exploring her athletic skills, Ajunwa, earned herself a place in the Nigerian Falcon’s team.
She was part of the women’s team during the Women’s World Cup in 1991. Wikipedia records that “she was constantly benched” and “her skill was seldom used”.
“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.”
4. Olympic Gold Medalist
In what surprisingly was her first attempt in the 7.12metre Women’s Long Jump at the 1996 Olympics, Chioma Ajunwa landed herself and her home country a historical gold medal.
Prior to the big win, she had competed at the African Championships in 1989 and the All Africa Games in 1991 winning gold medals at both.
Her win during the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta made her the first athlete in her country to win an Olympic gold medal. She also became the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event.
In her words:
“I never knew that Olympics was just a big competition like that,”.
“Actually it was when I came back to Nigeria, when I saw the crowd, I was like ‘what is going on there?'”
5. Commissioner Of The Nigerian Police Force
On Monday decorated as an Assistant Commissioner of Police, by the Police Service Commission. The event took place at the Police College in Ikeja.
Before now, Ajunwa who was recently made a commissioner had been an officer of the Nigerian police force, serving as a Chief Superintendent of Police.
The occasion which took place at the Police College in Ikeja, Lagos, as published by The Nation, came after the launch of her foundation in the nation’s capital, Abuja last week.
From running and jumping for the country, Ajunwa takes up a strategic role of nation development via her services in the police force as well as her foundation which has the main aim of rediscovering athletic talents in the country.
Ajunwa is sad that there has not been another Olympic medalist in Nigeria since her victory over 2 decades ago.
“Since I won the Olympics, it is 16 years today, since then no other gold — that is to tell us actually that we are not doing well and we really need to do something”.
6. Drug Controversy/Campaign
In 1992, Chioma Ajunwa failed to pass a drug test which led to a 4-year ban banned for four years from competing.
Denying the allegation she saying she had never deliberately gone to a pharmacist to purchase performance enhancement drugs.
“Here in Nigeria, most of the chemist people, even the doctors, gave to athletes maybe your sick, maybe you are having a kind of pain, have banned substance in it”.
Consequently, the Chioma Ajunwa Foundation also educates sports men and women in Nigeria on the dangers of using banned and illegal substances.
Aside the national Member of the Order of Niger (MON) award by the then Head of State of Nigeria Sani Abacha, Chioma Ajunwa is the Chairperson of the Women’s Development Committee of Imo State Football Association. She is also a Member of Committee on the Revival of the Nigeria Academicals Sports Competitions.