By Yemi Olus
August 2nd 2019, marked the 23rd anniversary of Chioma Ajunwa’s terrific GOLD-winning jump at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta where she soared to a Nigerian and African Record of 7.12m to become Nigeria’s first ever Olympic Gold medallist. The men’s Football team would also go on to win Gold a day later, also a first for Nigeria.
Four years later in Sydney, Nigeria’s 4x400m quartet of the late Sunday Bada, Jude Monye, Clement Chukwu and Enefiok Udo-Obong, won Silver behind the US, which was eventually upgraded to Gold after a member of the US team, Antonio Pettigrew eventually admitted in 2008 to taking performance enhancing drugs during that period.
Nevertheless, Ajunwa remains Nigeria’s only individual Olympic Gold medallist. Also, her winning distance in Atlanta, which is the second farthest jump by an African athlete under all conditions, remains the Nigerian and African Record!
The farthest jump by an African woman (under all conditions) was recorded by Blessing Okagbare when she made a leap of 7.14m at the Doha Diamond League in 2013. However, the wind (+2.2m/s) exceeded the legal limit of +2.0m/s. Okagbare’s legal Personal Best (PB) of 7.00m put her at No.2 on the African all-time list, until six days ago when Ese Brume overtook her on the standings with a massive new PB of 7.05m, which she achieved at the Turkish Trials.
Brume also recorded another 7m jump (7.03m) on the same day, although with excess wind, and also had another impressive jump of 6.91m. Sometime in July, Brume, who is a student at the Eastern Mediterranean University in Northern Cyprus, set a then PB of 6.96m while competing in Erzurum, Turkey, which sealed her qualification for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The entry standard for the women’s Long Jump is 6.82m. Prior to this time, Brume’s PB was 6.83m set in 2016, which earned her qualification for the Olympics in Rio.
I personally believe that Brume is one talented athlete that hasn’t received the recognition she deserves from Nigeria. She emerged Commonwealth Games Champion in 2014 and has won three consecutive Long Jump titles at the African Championships (2014, 2016 and 2018), making her the first athlete (male or female) in African Championships history to accomplish such a feat.
At the Rio Olympics, which was her first outing at the quadrennial event, she was Nigeria’s best individual performer, finishing in 5th place in the women’s Long Jump final. She eventually signed a professional contract with Adidas. But with Nigeria being the kind of country that only pays lip service to sports development, Brume was left on her own after Rio. She eventually turned up in Asaba to defend her African title, which she did.
However, herself and all Nigerian athletes that represented the country at the African Championships in Asaba, were not paid their full allowances. In fact, they were paid less than half of what was due them. As a result, Okagbare, Brume, Divine Oduduru and Tobi Amusan (the athletes I referred to as ‘The Big Four’ in my piece last week) rejected the incomplete allowances.
Like I said last week, it is no coincidence that these four athletes chose to speak out at this time, so close to the African Games. While some might question their timing, one thing we must realize is that these issues have accumulated over the years. Time and time again, our athletes have been deprived of their due, and if Nigeria wants to get the best out of them, it’s about time we began to do things the right way, and with transparency too. We must realize that these are careers we are talking about here.
Initially, Okagbare had been regarded as the heir apparent to Ajunwa’s record, especially after leaping to a Bronze medal (which was later upgraded to Silver) at the Beijing 2008 Olympics as a young athlete. However, Brume now seems to be the woman to watch out for as she is just 7cm short of Ajunwa’s Nigerian and African Record. She is now ranked No.2 in the world in 2019, just behind Germany’s Malaika Mihambo (7.16m), whose father is African by the way.
If Brume continues in this progression, she looks good for a medal at next month’s World Championships in Doha, and even the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Speaking about her build up this season, she said in her interview with Channels TV, “The federation and Sports Ministry have done nothing for me. I’m just here preparing on my own and I’m hoping they do something for us because we’ve worked hard and have spent a lot to prepare for the season.
“My target is to do better, but I have to get support to do that. I’m excited to have qualified for the Olympics, because this will be my second time. I’m hoping to get a medal and I’m working hard towards it, myself and my coach by the grace of God.” Nigeria needs to give Ese all the support she needs!