My dream as an athlete is to be at the Olympics and represent Nigeria
In this exclusive interview, ENKU EKUTA a 22-year-old Judoka whose prospect is to make her debut at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics bares her mind with JOSEPH ODOEKWU of SPORTS INTELLIGENCE MAGAZINE. She has gathered 120 points and currently Nigeria's highest ranked woman on -63kg. An optimistic athlete facing sponsorship challenge feels that she will do the nation proud if she qualifies for the Tokyo Olympics . The excerpt reads.
What motivated you to take part in Judo?
As a small child, I was always taken to the gym for training. My mum is into judo and my dad is a coach. So I grew up to like the game going by the fact that people I love around me participate in the game. Judo is a family sport.
Tell us about how you have been coping during the lockdown period facilitated by covid-19?
Apart from closing down of schools and churches as well as restrictions to social gatherings. The lockdown has not really affected me. I have lived my normal life. Even with the lockdown, I train because we went about our normal lives because we train as a family. The only restriction was transportation because there was no means of transport to take you where you are going and even when you see, it was expensive. The lockdown did not affect my training for one day and that was how the lockdown went. I come from a family that pray together and train in Judo together.
What are your dreams and expectations from Judo as an athlete?
My dream as an athlete is to be at the Olympics and represent Nigeria and that is the dream of any athlete. I have never attended world championships and All African games. I want to attend so many competitions so that my name will be heard all over the world and not only in Nigeria and Africa.
Have you won medals for Nigeria?
Obviously, I have won medals for Nigeria in championships. Last year we went for qualifiers in Senegal and Cameroon and I won a bronze medal and silver in both countries respectively.
Let’s talk about the Tokyo Olympics, do you have any hope of being there?
There is hope for me to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Although the coronavirus pandemic affected lots of qualifiers, but I still have to take part in six championships to enable me gather points for the Olympics. I am hoping to be at Senegal and Cameroon, one World Championship and One Grandslam and Grandpix each.
But you said you won medals at Senegal and Cameroon earlier, why do you have to be there again?
It is an African Open and continuity for the first session. It is very important to enable me gather more points so I can qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. I currently have 120 points and need more points to qualify for Tokyo Olympics. The last time I travelled for these qualifiers I went without my coach, it was a bit tough trying to adjust to another coach in a match that one needed victories. But I hope the situation will improve.
Is that the only challenge you have had so far in Judo?
There are several other challenges. First, Judo is not popular in Nigeria. And I think that it leads to other challenges such as lack of equipment and facilities to train, sponsorship and funding for the athletes to participate in more competitions, and getting athletes to train coaches. Moreover, travelling for more of these qualifiers requires sponsorship, and that’s where I will actually appreciate support from sponsors. I don't have sponsors for the Olympics qualifiers and I need sponsors for the Olympics qualifier.