By Osaretin Emuze
Juliet Obiagele Akaegbu is a cyclist of great repute and she rides the bicycle with ease to the admiration of all and sundry, because of her unique way of riding.
The native of Uzagba Umaeze in Ikeduru local government of Imo State said she came into cycling by default. “I came into cycling in 2001 by a stroke of luck. I went with a friend to the National Stadium (in Lagos) for sight seeing but returned a cyclist. It was like a miracle. I had learnt how to ride the bicycle in some of the trips I made with my parents to our village in Imo State, and was ridding for fun.
On that fateful day, I saw some girls riding a different kind of bicycle but I was interested. I asked to be allowed to ride and they obliged me. That was the beginning of my becoming a cyclist. The coordinators of Iloh cycling club who saw me ride, picked interest in me and recruited me into the club.By and large, Lagos state cycling coach Joe Izibili sported me and included me in his team to the National Sports Festival in Kaduna tagged Kadda 2008.
There I performed creditably, but I did not win any medal due to my young age and lack of experience. On returning to Lagos, I was recommended to the Rivers State cycling coach, Emmanuel Adesanya who took me to Port Harcourt where I was employed. With his encouragement and the help of two great cyclists, Odozi Godfrey and Innocent Emmanuel, I was able to improve on my stride and speed.
Through watching of foreign tapes on cycling competitions, I was able to carve a niche for myself and created a new style of riding which made me comfortable and fast during competitions.
As God would have it, I did the 200 metres individual time trials in the 17th National Sports Festival hosted in Port Harcourt and won the gold.
In the last sports festival in Lagos, I won silver because my bicycle dissappointed me during the final event of the 200 metres individual time trials. I had conditioned my mind to retain the gold, because I had beaten my opponent in the final several times in competitions but unfortunately, my bicycle failed me. That defeat pained me to my bone marrow.
Right now cycling is my life. I derived a lot of joy from it. My joy now is that I have been invited to the national camp by the Cycling Federation of Nigeria, CFN Technical Director, Bashiru Mohammed and I will work hard to represent Nigeria in major competitions,” she vowed.
Juliet said she had planned to retire this year to face her studies because she had completed her three mandatory sports festivals. “I wanted to quit cycling and face my studies, but because the festival is now open, I will wait till after the 19th Sports Festival in Calabar in 2014 before quiting the sports that has brought me fame and joy.”
On why she wants to quit despite her young age, the dark complexioned girl stressed that cycling is not good for women who intend to marry and have children in the future. “I intend to mary and have children, so I will quit early to regain my lost stature. I now look like a man because of serious training”.
She gave credit to her parents for encouraging her to forge ahead despite being the last born. She adviced upcoming cyclists, especially female cyclists, to be serious and hard working. “Cycling is not easy but with hardwork and dedication, they will make it.”