It is the first time Nigeria would qualify a gymnast to the Olympics, and Uche Eke made his history as he became the first Gymnast to not only qualify but also complete at Olympic Games.
Eke became the first Nigerian gymnast to compete at the Olympics, since the country first participated at the event in 1952.
The 23 year old was raised in the US, but he’s been traveling to Nigeria every year since he was three to visit his father’s village. Inspired by the sense of community he felt during his visits, he knew he wanted to give back.
Like many kids, Eke grew up doing flips on the trampoline in his babysitter’s backyard, but he wouldn’t stop when trampoline time was over.
According to him, He started doing backflips off his couch, landing on his head each time, until his mom decided to put him in a gymnastics class. Eke excelled and was eventually recruited to the University of Michigan, one of the top collegiate programs for men’s gymnastics.
When Eke arrived at Michigan, he told his head coach, Kurt Golder, that he wanted to compete in the Olympics. Since Eke has dual citizenship, Golder suggested that he represent Nigeria in what would become a historic moment for the country.
Eke mentioned in an interview with the CNN, saying that one thing he really loves about Nigeria as a whole is that the people are strong and have a heart, and Nigeria need to get things done. So, the only thing that he believes that’s stopping Nigeria from excelling in gymnastics is the equipment.
“Athletics in Nigeria aren’t really taken that seriously, unless they’ve already made it. Then everyone wants to help out and be supportive” he lamented. In order to get to the level where athletes can make it, equipments are needed, you need support, you need funding in order to excel, he further explained.
Eke mentioned that since he has a great place in Michigan to train, he can take advantage of that and get rid of the grunt work for Nigeria, and put Nigeria on the map for gymnastics.
Uche Eke’s first major international competition was at the 2019 African Games in Morocco.
Eke, who is the first Nigerian in history to compete in Artistic Gymnastics, finished 36th overall and after the three subdivisions were concluded on Saturday, had amassed a points tally of 74.765.
His best performance came in the third rotation, while competing in the vault where he scored 13.433 points, and then put up decent showings on the floor (12.833 points) and the Pommel Horse (12.866 points).
Gymnastics fans in the country have praise Uche Eke following his record-breaking outing at the ongoing Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Jude Tares said, “Even without a medal, representing Naija in this category is an achievement. We’ll surely get there. Congrats my brother.”
Muhammed Abdulrahman added, “Thank you Uche Eke… you shine bro. I am happy to see Nigeria take up this challenge for the first time since our independence. You will surely be remembered always!”