Three-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist Odunayo Adekuoroye talks about qualifying for the Paris Olympics, her aim at the global sports showpiece event, wrestling in Nigeria and more, in this interview with PETER AKINBO
How do you feel after qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics?
Qualifying for the Olympics is a thing of joy to me. I feel so blessed and very happy. After going for almost a year without competing and I still have to come to the World Wrestling Championships to get the slot to the Olympics, honestly, I thank God and I’m proud of myself for qualifying.
After losing in the quarter-finals of the qualifiers, did you think you were not going to make it to the Olympics?
After losing, I knew I lost to a strong hand. I was quite sure that my opponent would get to the final. I and my coach were so sure that we were just working on the next line of action, when we would fight in the repachage.
It will be your third Olympics next year. Would winning a medal make it a befitting Games after two tries without success?
Yeah, it will be the third Olympic Games for me. Winning at the Olympic Games will be a huge success for me and by the grace of God, I’ll work hard and give it all within me to make sure I’m on the podium come Paris 2024 because I have worked hard to be there and I deserve to come away with something this time.
At the last Olympics, you were favourite to win a medal before losing to Moldova’s Anastasia Nichita. How did you feel after that fight?
I was leading Anastasia in the fight but just few minutes to the end of the match, I lost. Really, I don’t want to talk about this anymore because I’m still just almost getting out of the shock and I really felt so bad, but it’s okay, we thank God. I’ll try again next year.
Nigeria has gradually grown to become one of the countries to reckon with in wrestling. Do you think the sport is advancing in Nigeria in terms of facilities and athletes welfare?
Nigeria has really grown in world wrestling. Thanks to the President of the Nigerian Wrestling Federation, Daniel Igali. He has really worked so hard, and I can see that wrestling in Nigeria is now on the global map both in terms of facilities and athletes’ welfare but we still need the government, companies and individuals to support the wrestling federation. We have got great the potential in this country, all they just need is the right support from sponsors.
You are schooling in Canada at the moment, how easy has it been combining sports and education?
I was schooling in Canada but I left for the United States of America where I study, work and train. The system there makes it easy for me to combine the three together and I am enjoying my time there.
What role did the Mountain of Fire and Miracle Ministries General Overseer Dr Daniel Olukoya play in your success story as an athlete?
Dr Olukoya and his wife have played a great role in my success story as an athlete. They have both been my spiritual parents; they have been of great help and have supported me spiritually and financially countless times. I am so blessed to have them in my life.
Who has been your most challenging opponent?
Helen Maroulis, the 2016 Olympics champion and three-time world champion from the United States of America is the toughest fighter I have ever faced in my career. I lost to her twice before we faced each other again in 2021 at the Poland ranking series, where I defeated her 12-0 by technical superiority. I would not call her a challenging opponent though because I have no challenging opponent, I strongly believe if I train well and prepare myself with the grace of God, there’s no challenging opponent.
How did you feel when you won your third gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2022?
I was so happy, the competition was very tough but I knew that with the right training, I could do it again and I was happy I could complete the treble at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. That competition last year was a very memorable one for Nigeria and I was glad to achieve that record there with all those other female athletes that did great things.
Have you ever fought a guy since you became a wrestler?
I have never fought anyone outside because we are not even permitted to do that, it is against the rules of the sport talkless of fighting a guy, and most of my friends are guys, so, I have never needed to fight anyone of them. Moreover, I am a Christian, and the Bible says blessed are the peacemakers, I am a peacemaker.
In all the countries you have competed, what country did you enjoy the most?
The country I enjoyed myself most was America. The atmosphere there is just different and full of life.