With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games set to kick off in a week, African student-athletes are gearing up for the opportunity of a lifetime to compete on the world stage once again. FISU U-Media Reporter Chidiebere Ezeani lists these promising student-athletes and had the opportunity to speak with some of them who shared their insight and feel leading up to the Olympic Games.
Ferdinand Omanyala (Athletics – sprint)
Part of the squad representing Africa is Kenyan Sprinter, Ferdinand Omanyala. Ferdinand is set to compete at his first Olympic Games after running a personal and national best time of 10.01 seconds at the Making of Champions Grand Prix in Lagos Nigeria in March, also making an Olympic qualifying time.
The 25-year-old won his first major international event in the men’s 100-meter event, with a time of 10.05 seconds also breaking Kenya’s national record in the semifinals of the same event.
As a student of the University of Nairobi, Ferdinand has seen a rise in recent times as he gradually progresses in his career. He was part of the Kenyan delegation at the Taipei 2017 Summer Universiade and believes the postponement of the Olympic Games in 2020 came as a blessing in disguise for him now that he is equipped with the qualifying time to take part.
“It feels good because I ran a record time in January 2021 of 10.11 and 10.14 in Eldoret in 2019, but it was all considered wind aided,” said Ferdinand. “So I have been trying to get that record for long and now I have it. God is great. Running 10.01 and qualifying for the Olympics is another thing. Now I am going to work even harder so that I can be at the Olympic final”.
Faith Ogallo (Taekwondo)
Another Kenyan that will be in Tokyo is Faith Ogallo, who is a student of the University if Kibabii and will be Kenya’s only representative in taekwondo following her victory at the All-African qualifiers in Rabat, Morocco.
Joining the Kenyans are other African student-athletes that have also qualified to take part at the Summer Olympic Games this year:
Enku Ekuta Ewa (Judo)
Third year philosophy student at the University of Port Harcourt she will be Nigeria’s only representative in Judo and is one of the country’s medal hopefuls at the tournament.
Elizabeth Anyanacho (Taekwondo)
The 300-level student of the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) fights in the 67kg category. She will be the first Nigerian taekwondo athlete to feature at the Olympics since her compatriot, Chika Chukwumerije, won Bronze in the men’s heavy weight event at Beijing 2008 and only the second female to qualify for the Olympics after Princess Dudu at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Hassanabdul
Grace Nwokocha (Athletics- sprint)
From the University of Port Harcourt, the 20-year-old will be one of Nigeria’s sprinters at the games, having recently established herself within the top runners of the country.
Godwin Olofua (Badminton)
Godwin qualified to represent Nigeria at the badminton events following an impressive run in the world qualification ranking. He will play in the double’s tournament.
Included in South Africa’s squad of 57 athletes are many student-athletes who will also be at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games:
Jason Van Rooyen (Athletics – shotput)
The 24-year-old student-athlete who juggles sport and work says he feels lucky and excited to have been selected to represent the university and country on a bigger stage. “All the loses I have taken and the sacrifices I have been making have paid off,” Jason expresses.
Cheswill Johnson (Athletics- long jump)
“It feels amazing to have the talent to qualify for something that happens every four years. I never thought I was going to be a long jumper because I was quite bad at it in high school. However, having support and resources from the University of Johannesburg athletics, I managed to work on it and improve. I am grateful for where I am today”.
Kristen Paton (Field hockey)
“I knew I did all I could to give myself the best possible chance to be selected. I have always had the goal of being able to showcase myself on the world stage and there is no bigger stage in which to do that than the Olympics, so I am incredibly excited and driven and have a newfound energy.”
Joining her as part of South Africa’s hockey squad in Tokyo are Onthatile Zulu, Lerato Mohale and Edith Molikoe.
Nqobile Ntuli (Field hockey)
Nqobile, who will also be accompanied by his brother Sihle ‘Sigz’ Ntuli, said: “We have already represented South Africa at the previous world cup tournament as a player and coach. Both of us going to the Olympics together is going to make our mom and the family proud once again”.
Jason Van Rooyen (Athletics- shotput)
“I am really grateful that all the hard work has paid off and I am also excited to be part of such a life changing event. The feeling has not sunk in yet. I went to Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games and promised myself I would go to the Olympics one day. This has been seven years of work.”
Toni Marks (Field hockey)
“I am really grateful that all the hard work has paid off and I am also excited to be part of such a life changing event. The feeling has not sunk in yet. I went to Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games and promised myself I would go to the Olympics one day. This has been 7 years of work”.
Edith Molikoe (Field hockey)
“I don’t have words to describe how I feel at the moment. I am excited, but at the same time nervous. It is a dream come true after hours of hard work and I am very proud of myself. I am really looking forward to this opportunity to learn and grow as a player.”
Other South African student-athletes part of South Africa’s delegation will also include:
FASU is excited to have these student-athletes represented on the world stage and together with FISU, wishes them all the best of luck at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.