In the past 2 hours, I have had a truly historic and memorable encounter.
I went to the Maryland area of Lagos to meet with, arguably, the greatest female athlete in Nigeria’s Track and Field athletics history,
As Africa’s foremost Hepthatlist she did the 110 metres hurdles, 200 metres, 800 metres, Javelin, Shot putt, High jump, and Long Jump. She ruled Africa and the Commonwealth in her time, winning 5 Gold medals for Nigeria at the All African Games of 1973 and 1978, and Nigeria’s first female medal at the Commonwealth Games. She was an Olympian (1972 and 1976).
The strange thing is that although we were at the Olympic Games of 1976 and the All-Africa Games of 1978 together, because I was in football and she was in athletics, she was a ‘goddess’ and I was an ‘ordinary’ mortal at the time, our paths never crossed. We never actually physically met even though we had mutual friends.
When our friends read this today, they will be shocked to learn that 2 hours ago was our first time of physically seeing each other. Of course, I knew and heard a lot about her before she left the shores of Nigeria in 1974/75, she never came back to live or train for competitions again.
She has been in Nigeria in the past one month. I only learnt about it a few days ago. I called her up and set up this encounter to ‘break the ice’. We have been so close and yet so far apart within the sports planet.
2 hours ago, as soon as I walked into her apartment in Maryland, the years evaporated. We hugged like long lost friends, and settled down to a truly great conversation.
We shared some of her stories in the US. She does not remember much about her earlier days in Nigeria. She has been out of the sports circuit for over 2 decades. She had a great job at the Ports in Los Angeles, California, but is now retired, enjoying her pension, visiting Nigeria more frequently since her mother passed on two years ago and spending quality time with her grandchildren.
It was as if we had always known each other. One topic dovetailed into another and ate up the time. I had to call up two mutual friends, former international-athletes in the US and Tanzania, to join us. She spoke with Lacey O’neale in the US, but we left a message for Filbert Bayi in Tanzania.
Thats how Modupe Oshikoya and I finally bridged the distance between us this afternoon. We shall now try to keep in touch more often.
Her story, since she left Nigeria, is truly remarkable, one that the world should read about one day soon.
For the younger generation that may not know the name, or much about her, I urge them to take a few minutes, Google – search ‘Modupe Oshikoya’, and re-discover this legendary African Queen of Track and Field!
I am deeply honoured to have spent valuable time with the goddess of African Track and field, today.