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How I quit football for athletics – Amike

By Kate Obodo

Henry Amike  was  an athletics gladiator and his exploits are well documented in continental and global track and field annals. He is one of Nigeria’s greatest hurdlers, and this could  be seen in the Nigerian athletics record book as his all time best performance of 48.50 seconds he did in 1987 in Rome, Italy remains the nations record in the event.

In this interview with Vanguard, the new President of Nigeria Olympians Association who came in after the exit of Smart Akaraka, told Vanguard  his story as a  footballer and how he later turned to an athlete. He also talks about his most painful moment and how he was able to overcame his  trials. Enjoy!

Henry Amike

In the beginning as a football and athletes
I am from a family of eight, I started as a footballer with a club called Greater Tomorrow, the Nigerian national team in1977 which is now called Flying Eagles before I later joined athletics and becoming an international athlete.
Discovering of my athletics skill.

Tobias Igwe discovered me in 1977; by all standards he was the one who influenced my decision to  start a career  in track and field. By 1978, I got into Secondary School games held in  Calabar and did well in the game. In 1979, I went to Ibadan for National Sport Festival and also won it . And also represented Nigeria very well in the Olympics, both in Africa and at the world level. So by the grace of God my grace is better than my grass.

Tough Beginning
Like I said earlier on, I was a former football player. We used to train at the national stadium Surulere, Lagos. One day, after our training I met coach Igwe, I didn’t know he was watching me run with the ball with speed. He told me that I could do better in athletics. For him, my speed counted especially each time I run with the ball. At first, I felt reluctant about it.

The next day, when I got to the stadium, they were doing trials he told me that I should joined them. Then I tried and did well in the trials, I came first in that trial. From there, I developed much interest in athletics and I was combining with football but later on, I realised that football was taking much time because of our constant matches and track and field was less cumbersome. That was how I started running track and field.

Tough moment
The most difficult moment of my life was when I fell down and came eight in the 400 metres hurdles, at the 1984 Olympics Games in Los Angeles, United States. Having trained so hard for four years, believing that at the end I would come out victorious. But the last 100m to the finish, I fell down and I realised that it was all over.

It was a sad and dark moment of my life, but I thank God that I was able to stand up and finish the race since it was a 400m race. That race was won by Eddy Moses, and I told myself that any time I meet him again I would beat him, and we did not meet again on still 1986 and I beat him very well.

Why the fall
Nothing caused it; what happened  was the anxiety in me to get  to the top, having worked so hard  for four years for the competition. Although, I over reacted to the hurdle stick.

Overcoming my trials
Really, overcoming it alone wasn’t easy but with my pastor, friends, coaches even the federal government supported me, I was able to over came my predicament.

Lesson learned
What I have learned so far in life is that, whatever that happened to you, put it behind you and forge ahead.

Best  Moments
To me, it was the day I set the national record which was in Rome, Italy in 1987. And broke it again  Barcelona, Spain.

All I can tell people is that, life is full of ups and downs and whatever happens to you is destined to happen to you. All you need is to be determined and as well be positive.


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