Former Olympics long jump champion, Chioma Ajunwa has given current Nigerian track and field sensation, Blessing Okagbare tips on how to win the Olympic gold at the London 2012 Games.
Ajunwa won the title at the 1996 Games and set an African record of 7.12m which has remained unbroken. As the 2010 Commonwealth GamesÂ and the London 2012 Olympics beckon, Ajunwa, who also holds the African women 100m record at 10.74seconds, stated that Okagbare has all it takes to clean out her records, but added that there is only one thing that is key.
â€œBlessing is doing well. She did 6.91 at the Beijing 2008 Olympics to win bronze and she recently did 6.88m. These are signs that she can win gold.
â€œBut gold does not come easy. She has to be focused and be serious in her training schedule. She shouldnâ€™t be carried away with all the noise about her achievements,â€ Ajunwa stated.
She added that Nigerian women are not doing too good on the sands because they are not as dedicated to track and field as athletes of the past were.
â€œI have not seen any Nigerian woman doing a good jump. This is because they donâ€™t train like we used to do in the past.
â€œI expected that by now somebody should have done better than 7.12m. The mark is there as a standard and they have to work real hard like we did in the past to achieve it,â€ Ajunwa said.
The flying policewoman, as she was fondly called in her days, surprised the world at the Atlantaâ€™96 Games when she took the gold from favourites like Fiona May of Italy and Jackie Joyner-KerseyÂ of the USA. Ajunwa who was coming from a four-year drug ban was not scheduled to do the jump. She was in Atlanta as a reserve for the relay. But former Athletics Federation of Nigeria president, late Alhaji Abudul kareem Amu reluctantly pushed her in and in her very first attempt, Ajunwa made the biggest jump of her life.
Her rivals, particularly May, cried blue murder. Other athletes also protested and this made the IAAF subject Ajunwa to about seven different dope tests andÂ she came out clean and the gold was undisputably hers. It was Nigeriaâ€™s first track and field gold and in any sport for that matter, first even before the football gold came through Nwankwo Kanu and the U-23 team at the same Games
â€œIt was hard work that gave me that gold. And I am assuring the younger ones that if theyÂ train hard and concentrate, they can win gold as well,â€ concluded Ajunwa.