By KATE OBODO
Mary Onyali Omagbemi’s exploits cannot be wished away in continental and global track and field history. She won over 18 different medals in her illustrious career, the highest by any Nigerian athlete and left a mark that is taking the African women too long to erase. This includes the African 200meters record, which stands till date. In this interview with ‘Hi Groove’’, she opens up on what drives her among other issues of her personal life style. Enjoy!
I was born on February 3rd,1968 to the family of the Onyealis in Mbaoko in Anambra state, Akwa North. My father died when I was young, leaving me with my mother and my younger siblings- a sister and two brothers. As a child, I was very active and I’m still active up till now. I was involved in a lot of activities. Anywhere there was fun, As I grew up, I got more involved in competitive sports (athletics).
As a girl getting involved in sports was a big challenge. Then, the traditional norm was for a girl to go to school, and after which she gets married. As for me, it was different. Although my intention was not to go against traditional norms, I found myslf doing just that. I am just one individual who always does things her own way.
Of course, my mother at one point wanted to stop me from getting involved in sports. For her, my education was paramount. She got pressurized by people; relations, friends who complained about to her on my involvement in sports. She almost changed her mind and get me out of sports.
But I had to assure and promise her I’d not compromise with my education. She insisted that under no circumstance should my education suffer because of sports or she would force me to quit. I thank God she insisted I got focused on my education. With five credits after my secondary school level, I bagged a four year sponsorship to study in U.S.A. That explains why I always tell kids of today not to compromise their education for anything.
My journey as an athlete
My journey into athletics was my choice. In my primary school days in Lagos, I competed in sprints high jump and long jump.
Being the team captain of my school, Amuwo Grammar School, Ojo, Lagos motivated my love for athletics. I got so involved and enjoyed competing and winning. I loved athletics because I never liked sports that had body contact like football.
My journey into athletics wasn’t rosy. At one point, my involvement affected my grades in school and my mother threatened to discontinue my participation in sports; So getting my grades up became my priority. I worked towards getting a scholarship in the U.S- the rest is history.
Daily (beauty) routine
I start off my day with a morning devotion after which I outline what to do for the day. I actually plan the night before, so by the next day it will be executed. I always pre-plan my activities, that is how I was able to combine athletics with marital chores being a married woman.On my daily beauty routine, honestly speaking, I prefer wearing my natural look. I don’t like too much make-up, I recently started making up after my athletics career in 2004.
Secret of my good looks
I believe it is hereditary
and it comes from my parents. In my family, we don’t age fast and being a sports woman contributed immensely too. But the most important thing is that I discipline myself when it comes to eating. I eat little but five times in a day. Some people are not aware that it is healthy eating with fruits and vegetable in between. Those eating habit I cultivated during my active days is what I still practice to date.
Style and Fashion
I put on whatever fits and
looks good on me. I’m not crazy about brands if the fabrics is of good quality, I buy. I prefer trousers because I got attached to trousers and track suits as an athlete for many years. Now, I try to wear skirts and gown especially when the occasion demands.
In a nutshell, I feel more comfortable in trousers. Talking about the worth of my clothes, I don’t go for the expensive type but what I consider most is the quality of the fabrics alongside good texture. Even if It costs N50,000 or more. What matters most to me is the quality and how well it fits me.
Shoes, hand bags and jewellery’s
One thing is obvious to everyone who knows me, I am a shoe and hand-bag freak. You can only find quality shoes and hand bags in my wardrobe. I love good shoes with high heels, well balanced on my feet and on the ground. Most of the shoes I wear cost from N100,000 and above, while for bags it costs between N150,000 to 200,000. When it comes to combining colours, I like matching my bag and shoes. Sometimes, I combine it with the colour of my outfit. I cherish bags a lot. As for jeweleries, I’m not a freak.
Mood and dressing
My mood affects the way I dress and that is what defines my fashion sense. I could feel like dressing sexy (but not provocative) and when on sports occasion, I go sporting, like track suits, jeans and T-shirts, shorts etc.
Life outside sports
Right now, I’m into sports’
wear manufacturing. It’s my own empire called ‘’Yali-Yali’’ Global Enterprise. I used the four last letters of my father’s names. The idea came after I retired from athletics in 2004. This is to give back to the community, especially our youth.
Men and I
Of course, I have a thou
sand of them and they never stop coming, I’m being not boastful. At the same time, I don’t snub any man that appreciates me. I also had my fair share of admirers when I was a competitor, but God gave me the grace to overcome them. I ended up with the best man as a husband, Victor Omagbemi. For now, I keep my admirers at arms length because I’m married and I have children. I’m committed to one man and one man alone.
Meeting your husband, was it love at first sight?
Meeting my husband
was not really love at first sight. We were team mates during my active days. We trained under the same coach, Tobias Igwe but without any strings attached.
We actually met in Nigeria before we left for United States of America for sponsorship at Texas Southern University, USA. At the University, we got close and soon found out we were both compatible.
From that momen we realisedwe could not hide our affection for each other again. Soon one thing led to another and the rest as they say is history.
Today we are blessed with two kids – a girl and a boy.
Athletics and married life
I have a lovely husband who has been an encouragement to me and my career. Throughout the thick and thin days, he was always there for our only daughter when I had to train and compete during my active days as an athlete.
An ideal home
A good home is when you have a loving husband alongside beautiful children. Both parents should be able to serve as an example to the kids and the outside world. In good homes, you don’t have parents who fight day and night.
I don’t have a best meal but
I eat any good food. I eat the right meal at the right time and it has to be home made and not fast food. I barely eat outside my home but if I have to eat out, the food must be appealing. I like coffee a lot. Usually I take a cup of coffee and two slices of bread and an egg for breakfast. For fruits, I like the Africa pineapple.