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Eke sets record as first gymnast to compete for Nigeria



UCHE Eke made Olympics history as he competed for Nigeria on in gymnastic. Interestingly Nigeria has never qualified for gymnastics before in Olympics but in May, Eke made history when he became the first to do so and this past weekend, he competed in his first Olympic Games.

  Raised in the USA, Eke, always travelled to Nigeria every year since he was three to visit his father’s village. Inspired by the sense of community he felt during his visits, he knew he wanted to give back to the community. In an interview Eke explained as he grew up doing flips on the trampoline in his babysitter’s backyard, but he wouldn’t stop when trampoline time was over. He started doing backflips off his couch, landing on his head each time, until his mom decided to put him in a gymnastics class. Eke excelled and was eventually recruited to the University of Michigan, one of the top collegiate programs for men’s gymnastics.

  When Eke arrived at Michigan, he told his head coach, Kurt Golder, that he wanted to compete in the Olympics. Since Eke has dual citizenship, Golder suggested that he represent Nigeria in what would become a historic moment for the country.

  He said “one thing I really love about Nigeria as a whole is that we’re strong and we have a heart, and we need to get things done. So, the only thing that I believe that’s stopping Nigeria from excelling in gymnastics is the equipment.

  Athletics in Nigeria isn’t really taken that seriously, unless they’ve already made it. Then everyone wants to help out and be supportive. But in order to get to that level, you need equipment, you need support, you need funding in order to excel. Since I have a great place here [in Michigan] to train, I can take advantage of this and get rid of the grunt work for Nigeria … (and) put Nigeria on the map for gymnastics.”

  He also added that his parents has always been in support of him, he represented Nigeria in the 2019 African Games in Morocco. He added “when we got there, I knew what my goal was, which was to win a gold medal for Nigeria because it hasn’t been done before. And I went in there, treated it like a normal competition, try to avoid all pressures and just went out there and had fun. And I came out first place on pommel horse.

  When I was on the ground right after I landed, I looked up at the score and I saw my name on top, and I was just so happy. Even those who weren’t there for Nigeria, the whole crowd was (excited), because that hasn’t been done before. I just felt all the excitement and love from everyone there. Eke competed in the men’s All-Around, and as at the time of this report, he was in 36th place overall after the two subdivisions were concluded amassing a points tally of 74.765. Not many Nigerian fans knew who Eke was before the Olympics, and despite the fact that he won a GOLD medal in the Pommel Horse two years ago in Rabat at the African Games, Gymnastics is not a household name in Nigeria.

  Although he has crashed out of the Olympics but he did not leave without making a statement in his performance. He was in 36th place overall after the two subdivisions were concluded amassing a points tally of 74.765. His best performance came in the third Rotation while competing in the Vault where he scored 13.433 points, and then put up respectable showings on the Floor (12.833 points) and the Pommel Horse (12.866 points).

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