Team Nigeria’s medalist at the just concluded 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Blessing Oborodudu has said the silver medal she won in the women’s 68kg wrestling event is worth more than gold. In this interview with Trust Sports, the 32-year old Bayelsa State born freestyle wrestler who is a 10-time African champion and the first female to win a medal in wrestling for Nigeria, narrated how she became a wrestler, her experiences at the Tokyo Olympics as well as what motivated her to win the precious medal.
You have just returned from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games. What were the experiences and challenges that you faced?
Although we all had challenges, that didn’t deter me from pursuing my dream which was to win a medal for my country. I also had great experience there, especially in view of the fact that I once again had another opportunity to compete against some of the best wrestlers in the world.
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Before you left for the games, what was your target?
My singular ambition was to win a medal for my dear country. I wanted to make sure I win a medal and make my country proud.
How satisfied are you with the silver medal you eventually won?
To be honest with you, my silver medal is more than gold to me. I am the first female to win a medal for Nigeria in the Olympics in the history of wrestling. I can say, I’m very okay with the feat I attained. The person I lost to in the final is not a bad wrestler. Sometimes, you get more disappointed when you lose to somebody who is not better than you. In a match, anyone can lose. I think she was better than me at that moment, that was why she won gold.
What was your motivation during the Olympics?
Yes, I drew my motivation from the fact that I went there to represent and make my country proud. Moreover, the president of Nigeria Wrestling Federation, Dr. Daniel Igali, did his best to discover and encourage me. Therefore, I was determined to make him proud during the Olympics. He put in every effort to make sure that wrestlers did well during the games. Before we left for Japan, he was sending transport money every month for us to go for training. We were even called to camp in December 2020, just to make sure that we prepared adequately for the Olympics. Then in January, he hosted a pre-tournament championship for us to build self confidence and morale ahead of the Olympics. Since there was nothing we could give him in return, I was determined and prayed to God so that I could win a medal and make him proud. Furthermore, the encouragement from Bayelsa State governor, Senator Douye Diri, was a great motivation. He had adopted me before I left for Japan. There was also motivation for us from the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC). I was on NOC scholarship which enabled me to attend world ranking series, where I met top wrestlers in my category. Against this background, I was inspired to make these people and my country proud.
When and how did you become a wrestler?
I started wrestling in 2006. I was discovered in my secondary school in Amarata, Yenagoa by the Bayelsa State Sports Council, when they came for our Inter-House sports festival. Dr. Daniel Igali and other wrestling coaches were there. So, after the Inter-House sports, they announced that I was invited to the National Sport Festival Camp in Kaiama, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area. After my exams, I went to the camp and trained there for three weeks before we went for the National Sports Festival in Ogun State.
How much support did you receive from your family when you decided to become a wrestler?
At that time, I was living with my elder brother who was a Police officer. He said I cannot be a wrestler. He wanted me to go to school, get married and be a responsible woman in society. My brother said wrestling is for men. Therefore, he stopped me from training. However, when he met with Igali who explained everything to him with assurance that I would become great in the world, he approved that I should pursue my career. That was how I started. My parents too were not in support of my decision to be a wrestler. My only regret today is that my elder brother is not alive to see what I have become in wrestling.
How many Olympics have you attended so far?
The just concluded 2020 Tokyo Olympics was my third appearance. I had attended London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics.
How satisfied are you with your performance at the two Olympics that you just mentioned?
When I attended my first Olympics in 2012, I was quite young and inexperienced. In 2016, I also met the current world champion. We wrestled 1-1 but she won the match because of luck. She is the same girl that l fought and defeated in the semi-final of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Considering your tight schedule as a wrestler, were you able to further your education?
Yes, I graduated from the Niger Delta University in 2017.
At 32, what are your plans for the 2024 Olympics?
It’s not easy to go to the Olympics to wrestle and win a medal. I need support from individuals and corporate bodies to prepare for 2024. I hope we will start early preparations.
What is your advice to upcoming athletes and Nigerian youths?
My advice to the youths is that, if they have a dream, they should stick to it. They must pursue it with all amount of zeal. They mustn’t be discouraged by anything. Failure should be seen as a stepping stone. They should keep trying until the goal is achieved.
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