”The unique thing about athletics” – The story of Falilat Ogunkoya

Posted On 09 Mar 2019
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Chief Falilat Ogunkoya Omotayo MON is a Nigerian former track and field athlete. she is an Olympian and one of Nigeria’s most decorated track and field queen.

She got involved in sport was she was in school, she ran and played table tennis for fun. When it was time for competition she had to choose which sports she would focus on, a decision that was not easy to make “THE BEGINNING WAS TOUGH BECAUSE WHEN I STARTED, I didn’t know if I wanted to play table tennis or to do athletics as I was good at both, the two coaches were divided, and I was told to choose the sports i will specialize in…i decided to pick athletics.”

Chief Falilat Ogunkoya said she chose athletics because “the unique thing about athletics is when i”m running, I know I’m free, so I can run as fast as I can…”

Breaking the news to her parents that she was going to be involved in sport was difficult, she had to get help from her games master “i called my mum, my games master also helped me break the news, but my mum was worried because I was born premature, she feared I would break my bones or hurt myself, it took the intervention of my dad to convince my mom, he told my mum to allow me to pursue my dream…they prayed for me, gave me their blessing and that really helped me.”

Her first external tournament outside school sports was the 1985 sports festival, she said “my coach really helped when I was preparing for 85’sport festival, I would go on road walk with my coach early in the morning before school, the hard work really helped me, I was willing to walk, run and do anything. I trained with both boys and girls.”

After working hard and mastering her craft she was almost dropped from the final list of the Ogun state team for the festival; “they said they had too many athletes and they had plans to drop me, but my coach knowing how hard I have prepared said he would rather stay out of the festival and be dropped as a coach than for me to be dropped, at the end of the day I and my coach were selected…”

Chief Falilat Ogunkoya Omotayo inclusion in the team at the sports festival paid off big time, as she won four gold medals at the festival, her first medals, she won in 100m, 200m, 4x100m at the national sports festival out of 9 medals won by the Ogun state team.

She took a break from the tracks, in 1990 she went to school, had her son, then made a return to the tracks in 1993.
In 1994 and 1995 she finished second at all Africa games, winning gold in the 4x100m and in 1996 she made it to the Olympics but finished in the second round, she continued practicing and wrote her name in gold four years later at the 1998 Olympic games, winning her first Olympics, a medal she treasures the most;

“I had to go to attend two different Olympic games that’s 8 years before I got my medal, in 1996, i crashed out in the second round and I cried, as I had always looked forward to the Olympics, after crying I set a goal that the next Olympic I will attend I will win a medal, because I had a sponsorship deal and I didn’t want to lose out on the bonuses, so I worked extra hard for 1998”

In 1999 she was ranked the best in the world by IAAF, at the 1999 Games in Johannesburg she won a gold medal in the 400m. and 2001 in the 400m. She went on to win more medals until she retired.

For Chief Falilat Ogunkoya Omotayo if she sets her mind to do something she sticks to it and that brought her success.

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