- Procrastination is the grave where all opportunities are buried- Chioma Ajunwa- Okpara
Tough times never last but tough people do. Those who believe never give up rather they always push harder until they achieve their goals.
This is the story of one of the best sports personalities Nigeria has ever produced. Her hunger for success and passion for excellence her zeal to be the best, propelled her to greater heights. She is a shining light and a role model to many who know her story and those who aspire to be the best.
Indeed Chioma Ajunwa is arguably the best among equals.
Born into what she describes as “a very poor home”,, a native of Ahiazu Mbaise, Ajunwa was the last of nine children, with six brothers and two sisters. Her father passed on while she was still young, leaving his wife to solely support a large family.
At 18, Ajunwa, who had been a keen athlete during her school years, gained admission into the university for further studies but sadly was unable to register due to her mother’s inability to pay the fees. She then opted to train as an auto mechanic instead, but would eventually abandon the idea following her mother’s disapproval. Chioma remained positive, determined and ever hopeful of what the future held.
She never gave up cause she believed that winners never quit and quitters never winner.
As a professional sportswoman, Ajunwa originally played football for the Nigerian women national team. She was a member of the Falcons during the women’s world cup in 1991, but as she was constantly benched, her skill was seldom used.
Of her short-lived football career Ajunwa has stated “I’ve not regretted the decision to “leave football” because I’ve made my mark in athletics. I could have continued with football but there was a particular coach, he knew then that I was the best player in the team but he decided to keep me on the bench throughout every match so I left the team’s camp. She played as an attacker.
Ajunwa went into track and field specializing in the 100m, 200m and long jump events. She competed in the 1990 Commonwealth Games, winning a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 meters relay. She qualified for the African Championships in 1989 and the All Africa Games in 1991 where she won gold medal in the long jump. Ajunwa was ;later banned from the sport for four years after failing a drug test in 1992 despite maintaining her innocence.
Following the completion of her suspension, Ajunwa went on to become the first West-African woman, as well as the first Nigerian, to win an Olympic gold medal in a track and field event when she emerged victorious in the women’s long jump event at the1996 Olympic in Atlanta, with a jump length of 7.12 meters (on her first attempt) during the final. In 2003, she stated in an interview with The Vanguard “I toiled so much for this country, but then I was dumped…That I could be the only individual gold medal winner for Nigeria in over half- a-century of participation in the Olympics and I could still be treated like a scourge, I couldn’t believe it.”
On 1 October 2010, Nigeria celebrated its 50th Independence anniversary. As part of that celebration, on Thursday 30 September 2010, President Good luck Jonathan conferred special Golden Jubilee Independence Awards on 50 distinguished Nigerians and friends of Nigeria including Ajunwa for their contributions to the development of the country.
On Friday 30 April 2010 Ajunwa delivered a paper on “War against the use of illicit Drugs in Sports” at an Interactive Session organised by Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN). In the second half of 2010, Ajunwa stepped up her anti-doping activities by starting an integrated campaign aptly tagged ‘Compete Fair & Clean’. This personally-financed initiative involves communicating messages directly to athletes and coaches at athletic events.
Awareness and Red-flag workshops and seminars are being organized with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN). Banners are placed at athletic events and informative publications as well as T-shirts with anti-doping messages are given to athletes and coaches.
In her continued quest to give back to the society, she set out to establish a foundation which is aimed at discovering raw talent that can compete anywhere in the world. She worked tirelessly with support from her friends, family and professional colleagues to see that the project came to light. However, she faced some challenges which I would rather, not to talk about here, she stated
Chioma Ajunwa doesn’t start anything and stop halfway. She is a tenacious being who believes that procrastination is the grave where all opportunities are buried. Chioma is very energetic, sociable, easy going, courageous and fearless woman.
Her inexhaustible abilities and unyielding faith stands her out as a paradigm of a practical woman of substance. She is equally a mother of three beautiful children. She does everything with unmatchable sagacity and unequalled passion and excellence.
Her foundation was launched On December 2017, known as Chioma Ajunwa-Okpara Foundation. The Foundation, in collaboration with the Abia State government, sponsored an Under-16 Athletics Championship for Secondary Schools in March 2018.
She also a member of the following bodies:
- Chairperson of the Women’s Development Committee of Imo State Football Association. 2011
- Member of Committee on the Revival of the Nigeria Academicals Sports Competitions. 2011
- Assistant Commissioner of Police
Chioma Ajunwa has etched her name in gold. She personifies strength, grace and excellence . She is a living legend who has brought glory to her country, putting her on the world map of excellence
IMAGE: Gold stone