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Chidinma Chukwuemeka: My parents tried to stop me from athletics to save my femininity

Teen sprinter, Chidinma Favour Chukwuemeka, has sensationally revealed that when she indicated interest in athletics, her parents tried to stop her because they said she…

Teen sprinter, Chidinma Favour Chukwuemeka, has sensationally revealed that when she indicated interest in athletics, her parents tried to stop her because they said she would lose her feminine looks and no man would be interested in marrying her. In this interview with Trust Sports, Favour who is aiming to become an Olympic medallist said her mother wanted her to help out in the family’s petty business because her presence attracted more customers. She also spoke on how she was able to overcome the initial hiccups and her future dreams.

How did you get into athletics?

Right from when I was very small, I loved to run and I took part in school competitions. I often won my races and when I didn’t, I would come second or third. So, my love for the tracks began from my primary school days till I entered secondary school. And since then, my love for the tracks has grown in leaps and bounds.

Athletes like you often have challenges and opposition from their families? What was your experience when you started?

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My parents tried to stop me from taking athletics as a hobby, let alone a career. It was even worse as I am a lady and I remember my parents telling me no man will marry me in future because I will be looking like a man. (laughs) My parents stopped me because they wanted me to do business instead. My father was not in support at all. According to him, I would look like a man if I do athletics and also that there is no future for me running for a living. He believes that doing business was a better option for me as a woman than sprints. It was tough for me but I would often find a way to run. I sneaked out to train or when they send me on errands, I don’t come back early as I would have gone to train. It was very rough as I faced my parents’ resistance. It was really challenging and at the same time demoralizing.

What are the other challenges you have faced so far?

My mum also supported my dad. She seriously wanted me to join her in her business. You know she said she made more sales when I was in her shop and I was very useful to her in running quick errands. I joined her most times but as I said earlier, I always found a way to train.  She runs a petty business and she would like me to be more involved. She sells boli (roasted plantain) and her customers are very familiar with me. Other challenges I faced were financial. Coming from an average family, having no money to buy spike shoes, even money for balanced meals to keep me in shape or money to treat myself when I get injured, was quite frustrating. My family didn’t give me money for some of my needs as an upcoming athlete.

You started on your own but how were you discovered for further training?

My aunty saw my talents and urged me to keep on and improve on my sprinting. At the beginning, I struggled a lot. I was not improving and I cried a lot about it. Fortunately, I met my coach in 2021 at Asaba Stadium and things have been better since then. He has really improved my game and I’m very grateful. I am growing gradually and I narrowly missed being part of Team Delta for the Sports Festival. I missed the final stage of qualification with a small margin and I am optimistic that I will partake in my first national sports festival soon and become a national champion. I trust in my abilities and trust that my coach will help me to get to that level soon.

What are your favourite events in athletics?

I am comfortable in sprints, that is 100 and 200m meters. My strides are not bad. My coach is putting me through the basics. For now, I am concentrating on the two events.

What are your immediate and future ambitions?

My dream is to become an Olympic champion like Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. She’s a big inspiration to me and I love watching her races. I always tell myself that I can be better than them and want to break the 100m record. I’m 15 now so I still have time for a lot of improvement.

You mentioned Fraser as someone you look up to, don’t you have any Nigerian athlete you admire?

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce is my role model; I’m not looking up to any of the Nigerian athletes. I study every part of her game and hope to implement more soon. She is great and I admire her a lot. I love to watch the way she runs and I am picking some valuable bits from her races. I pray to meet her one day and learn directly from her.

Your dreams are lofty but what steps are you taking to see them come true?

Put more effort, and take training far more seriously. Like they say, practice makes perfect. I have to train hard, and also pray hard as well. And while training, I will participate in competitions around and my performances in such will aid my overall development as an athlete.

How do you handle pressure from boys?

I am only 15 years old but I know exactly what is good for me. My focus is on athletics and I am not allowing anything to distract me. I am from a decent background so I am not going to disappoint my parents. I am doing everything to ensure they do not regret their decision to allow me pursue my dreams in athletics. So, I have no time for any relationship for now. There is time for everything.

We wish you all the best in your future endeavours…

Thank you for having me. I appreciate everything.