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Photo credit: tableatny (flickr)

If  there is a universal language which all races and tribes of the world understand, that language is nothing but sports. Across the world there are various sports that a vast majority of people have come to identify with and some of these ranges from football to basketball, cricket etc.

There is a popular saying that all great men once started small and on this note it becomes pertinent to get behind the scene and find out what it entails getting into the track and field world as an amateur aiming for the height of a professional.

The ‘little man with a big engine’as he is fondly called, has worked himself to an advantaged point and increased his drive to become one of the best athletes the world would come to reckon with. This is one of the reason, he held on to his passion to pursue his dreams in the sporting world as against the wish of his parents to become a medical doctor just like his father and one day take charge of the family hospital.

In the light of the foregoing therefore, the 15 day of April 2017 provided the opportunity to interact and have a feel of what it is trying to become a professional in the athletics world.

His name is Oghenevwegba Okiemute, an indigene of Delta State and a citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He is 26 years of age and is unmarried at the moment. Okiemute started his career as a young athlete from the day he represented his school during their inter-house sports competition way back during his days in the primary school. It might also interest you to know that he is from Oghara in Ethiope West area of Delta, Nigeria as opposed to the wide believe that he hails from Ogharefe.

The young gentle man engaged in early track and field training which made him a regular visitor to the Oghara township stadium in Delta State where some indigenous athletes also come to train.

His drive to carve out a name for himself and his state made him to approach other athletes at the end of their training sessions and sought advice from them. According to him, these athletes were very ready to listen and also provided him with words of encouragements. Okiemute did all this as a kid without knowing the impacts it would have on him in the years to come.

It was during one of his regular visits to the stadium that he was opportune to meet the popular track and field lady Chioma Anjuwa Opara who was on ground to provide assistance to some Delta State athletes

Okiemute have always had the passion for track and field sports, in his words, he said and I quote ‘I live on the track and field and the track and field in turn lives in me’. Enough reason he decided to focus more on becoming an athlete as against becoming a medical doctor. His uncle was a runner as well though he did not get to hit the spotlight, as he desired.

Okiemute reveals that despite the fact that his uncle did not get to the height as he envisaged, he does not see it as a turn off but rather as a challenge thrown at him to be the best he can be. In Okiemute’s words ‘If I get the necessary support, encouragement as other athletes do get, then I think the sky is not the limit for me, but a starting point’

For Okiemute, it was a tough challenge as his parents were hell bent that he followed the career path in the sciences. However, as against the sciences his parents wanted him to study, he went in for Physical and Health Education at Delta State University, Abraka where he obtained a Bachelor’s degree in PHE.

Okiemute’s rise in the world of track and field started yielding results during his years in the university as an undergraduate when his team emerged winners of the Vice Chancellors Cup competition and when they also represented their university at the Nigerian University Games Association (NUGA) in Lagos state where they clinched the first position in most of the track and field events. The above made his parents to accept his desired career path and gave him the necessary support they could.

The name Okiemute soon became a name to be reckoned with as he made progress into the Delta state team which is the dream of every young athlete as it provides not just the platform for one to grow but also provides the technical know-how of what the track and field is all about.

There were reports that in December 2016, Okiemute left the training camp in Delta owing to some misunderstanding with his coach. He however sheds some light on what really transpired. In Okiemute’s words “I would still like to state that the misunderstanding had nothing to do with my allowance but it was more of my personal life. My girlfriend was up for a surgery and I needed to be with her, I wrote to the appropriate authorities but there was a slight delay before my request was granted and hence I had to do what I think was right’’

In the race of life, Okiemute has experienced some hurdles, the young man did not make it to the Rio Olympics in Brazil owing to the delay in the disbursement of funds, and though he felt bad, he does not feel discouraged as he is of the opinion that the opportunity will some day present itself for him to represent Nigeria once again and showcase himself to the world.

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Photo credit: Olympic flag (flickr)

Okiemute passion to acquire more knowledge engineered him into a student currently running a master’s program at the Delta state university, Abraka, Delta State despite being on the road to full recovery from a fractured wrist bone due to a car accident.

However, from the sound of his voice, one can would agree that he is somewhat of a strong character, who would be coming back on screen and on the track sooner than expected.

It was really a tough time for him when it happened, as he had to cope with not just the physical pain, but also the emotional pain. Then again, he couldn’t make it to Zambia where he was to meet with some foreign athletes and also officials of the Zambia team.

The Oghara man didn’t fail to let us into his private life. He however clears the air and set the records straight that he is not married, though he has a girlfriend who means the world to him. He states that one of the reasons for still being unmarried is because he wants to build his career to a certain level just so he can then have enough time his wife to be as well as be the best husband and father.

Considering his status, one would expect Okiemute to be living a luxurious life like some of his colleagues but it is surprising to note that he drives a Toyota Camry 2007 model. His reason for not engaging in a luxurious life style is not far-fetched he says ‘You and I know that it is not possible for me to be athlete at the age of 60, so I think it is best for me to start planning for my family as well for my retirement at this stage when it is still possible’

Okiemute is also a sociable character as when he is up for his leisure time, he enjoys having some few drinks and sometimes performing the role of a DJ to entertain his friends and family.

To keep up as an athlete, you must stay at the top of your game by engaging in regular training says the Oghara man. Okiemute however works out most Saturdays in the gym as well as on the tracks, then takes a break from training on Sundays.

Moving away from track and field, one would not know okiemute takes the game of football to heart. The young fellow loves the game so much and he is a die-hard supporter of Warri Wolves football club in the Nigerian Premier league as well as a staunch supporter of English team, Chelsea football club.

As a way of ameliorating the challenges facing the Nigerian sports community in general, he believes the first issue that would be addressed if he were opportune to become the Sports minister is the problem of inadequate funding of athletes, retirement benefits as well as introducing international best practice when it bothers on training and retraining of athletes.

Taking the history of sports in Nigeria into consideration, he says the ‘government has performed well, but if one is to review the present situation on ground, one would agree that more needs to be done in the area of moral and financial support’.

Okiemute believes that ‘Nigeria is a country that is blessed with talents and until these  talents are harvested, we will not get the desired results we seek in the world of sports’. He therefore advised that the government set up academies at the grassroot and local level that will in turn help breed future world champions’

Usain Bolt is that athlete Okiemute admires as his role model due to his passion for the sports, his unwavering interest and outstanding performances which makes him stand out.

As an advice for the upcoming athletes, he charges them to work hard and stay focused, as no dream is too big to achieve.

Against all odds, Okiemute’s dream is to become one of the world’s best athlete, represent his country at international competitions, win as much medals as he can and also give back to the society by way of helping to search and raise your talents.