Chioma Ajunwa has the distinction of having been a footballer and then an athlete. Her career has inspired many young Nigerian women. An Olympic gold medallist in 1996, she is the only woman to participate in a football World Cup and in the athletics events of the Olympic Games.
Her first try was a master stroke. At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Chioma Ajunwa jumped 7.12m on her first attempt. This was enough to win the gold medal. She thus made history as the first Nigerian athlete to win an Olympic gold medal. A multi-skilled athlete, she has competed in the 100m, 200m and long jump for several awards in Africa and around the world.
Chioma Ajunwa-Opara was born on 25 December 1970. She is the youngest of nine children. She was very young when her father died. Her youth was spent in a poor family. She started athletics at secondary school. When she turned 18, she could not afford to go to university.
Her passion for sport was not only about athletics. She was a professional footballer. She even participated in the World Cup in 1991. But she finally decided to stop. In her opinion, she was not given enough of a chance. So she opted for athletics.
A World Cup to her credit
Chioma Ajunwa has several awards. At the 1989 African Championships in Lagos, Nigeria, she won a gold medal. She also won a bronze medal in the 4x100 meters relay at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. This was followed by gold at the 1990 African Championships in Cairo, Egypt. At the 1991 All Africa Games in Cairo, she won gold in the 4x100m relay. After these games, she was suspended for 4 years for failing a doping test.
She then returned to win gold at the 1996 Olympics. At the 1998 African Athletics Championships in Dakar, she also won the same medal in the vault.
The renown Nigerian athlete struggled to win the World Athletics Championships, finishing 4th in 2001 in Edmonton, Canada, in the 4 × 100 meters relay.
Chioma Ajunwa has made the fight against doping her mission. In 2010, she participated in a session organized by the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN). Her commitment and her journey may serve as an example to young African athletes who want to shine.