Biography Intro: Chioma Ajunwa-Opara, MON (born 25 December 1970) – also known as Chioma Ajunwa – is a Nigerian former athlete who specialised in the long jump. After various setbacks in her career she achieved fame when she became the first athlete in her country to win an Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and to date remains Nigeria’s only individual Olympic gold medalist. Chioma Ajunwa is the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event. Ajunwa is also an officer with the Nigerian Police Force.
NAME: Chioma Ajunwa-Opara
DATE OF BIRTH: 25 December 1970
PLACE OF BIRTH: Ajunwa
OCCUPATION: Nigerian former athlete
CAREER AND PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES: As a professional sportswoman, Ajunwa originally played football for the Nigerian women’s team and was a member of The Falcons during the Women’s World Cup in 1991, but as she was constantly benched her skill was seldom used. Of her short-lived football career Ajunwa has stated “I’ve not regretted the decision [to leave football] because I’ve made my mark in athletics. I could have continued with football but there was a particular coach… He knew then that I was the best player in the team but he decided to keep me on the bench throughout our matches so I left the team’s camp.
Ajunwa performed as a track and field athlete and specialised in the 100m, 200m and long jump. She competed at the 1990 Commonwealth Games, winning a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 metres relay, and competed at the African Championships in 1989 and the All Africa Games in 1991 where she won gold medals in the long jump. Ajunwa was banned from the sport for four years after failing a drug test in 1992, despite maintaining her innocence.
Following the completion of her suspension, Ajunwa went on to become the first West-African woman, as well as the first Nigerian, to win an Olympic gold medal in a track and field event when she emerged victorious in the women’s long jump event at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, with a jump length of 7.12 meters (on her first attempt) during the final. Her feat, however, was overshadowed by Nigeria’s Olympic football team – renamed the Dream Team for the tournament – who matched her achievement when they beat Argentina to win a gold medal. In 2003, she stated in an interview with The Vanguard “I toiled so much for this country, but then I was dumped…That I could be the only individual gold medal winner for Nigeria in over half- a-century of participation in the Olympics and I could still be treated like a scourge, I couldn’t believe it.”
HONORS AND AWARDS:
Community Chieftaincy Title
Nigeria Golden Jubilee Independence Awards
WHAT HE/SHE IS FAMOUS: The first West-African woman, as well as the first Nigerian, to win an Olympic gold medal in a track and field event