By Peter Akinbo.
Heading to the Delta 2022 National Sports Festival last November, 15-year-old darts player Victoria Emwemanya did not have high expectations, despite eventually emerging as one of the star athletes of the biennial event.
The youngster finished the championship with three medals, a gold among them, made even more memorable coming against her coach, to hold her head high as one for the future.
Interestingly, Emwemanya didn’t like sports, until she was 13, when darts stole her heart.
Living just behind the Stephen Keshi Stadium in Asaba, she had the opportunity to pick from a wide range of different sports, but she narrates how darts caught her eye.
“This month (January) makes it two years since I started darts. I didn’t like anything about sports before then, but I just discovered that one of my friends was involved with darts and I followed him to the playing ground and I liked the sport, so I started it.
“It was not easy in the beginning and it was somehow discomforting. I was only able to get better with the help of my coach,” Emwemanya told PUNCH Sports Extra.
The teenager did not enjoy support from her parents when she started, and often got back from training at a time they were not comfortable with.
“Sometimes the training finished late, so, I would get home around 6pm and they didn’t like that at all, they also didn’t like that I would return from school and go to the stadium immediately to train. Sometimes, they also felt I went elsewhere instead of going to train. However, they are more supportive now that I have won medals,” she added.
Despite winning gold, silver and bronze medals at Delta 2022, Emwemanya says it’s not her happiest moment as an athlete.
“My happiest moment was when I won the winner-takes-all event for the first time. It’s a Saturday event where we compete among ourselves. I just started then and it was the beginning of the U-15 tryouts. What we do is everyone in training will contribute a particular sum of money and everyone will play everybody both male and female and anyone that wins at the end would take all the money and I won it back-to-back,” she said.
Emwemanya told PUNCH Sports Extra now eyes a chance to represent Nigeria on the international stage, despite several challenges that made her have a rethink about her involvement in sports.
“Yes, there were times when I felt like giving up; it was when I had to go for training every single day under the sun. There were times I would return from school and would not be able to rest or eat, but would go straight to training, and I just thought that I should stop, it was very stressful. I don’t know why I didn’t stop. I kept on saying ‘I will stop soon, I will soon stop’ but I just kept on going.
“Now, I feel I can keep going because I actually didn’t expect to achieve all I did at the National Sports Festival in 2022.
“I am just preparing for any opportunity that will come up, hopefully, an international event comes in for me to represent Nigeria outside the country, I pray I will be selected,” she said.
Emwemanya’s coach, Patricia John, said she noticed the talent in her when she first saw her try out in the sport.
“When I first met Victoria two years ago, I noticed her because we are always scouting around for good players at the grassroots. She came along and she started real good, I knew we had to concentrate on her and give her enough attention so she can fulfil the potential in her, and she did, very well,” she said.
Her talents have already catapulted her to special recognition, with John saying after her feat in Asaba, she set for the global stage.
“As it is now, she has been chosen as one of the best dart players in the U-15 category that competed at the National Sports Festival in Delta, and she is being pencilled down for one or two international championships outside Nigeria,” John said.
On her rise to the top, John added about her player, “In sports generally, there are always challenging moments, but she never gave up, she is always so triggered and she comes back stronger than the last time, every time. She has been trying to put her training and studies together, and I have just seen that she is an outstanding athlete.”