Dr Chioma Ajunwa Oparah is currently an Assistant Commissioner of Police. In 1996, she put Nigeria on the map when she became the first African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event. The Lagos State’s previous military administrator had promised Chioma Ajunwa a house as a reward for winning the gold medal, but for 25 years, this promise was never fulfilled. In 2021, the Governor of Lagos finally handed her the key to a 3-bedroom apartment in Lagos State. Chioma Ajunwa remains the only woman to compete at both the FIFA Women’s World Cup as a footballer and the Olympics as a track and field athlete.
Chioma Ajunwa was born on the 25th of December, 1970 in Umuihiokwu, Nigeria. She is a native of Ahiazu-Mbaise, and according to her, was raised in a very poor home. She is the last of nine children and was raised by her mother, following the death of her father. When she was 18 years old, Chioma Ajunwa gained admission into the university but was unable to enrol because her mother could not afford the fees. She later decided to become a motor mechanic but dropped this decision when her mother disapproved.
Chioma Ajunwa originally played football as an attacker for the Nigerian women’s team and was a part of The Falcons team during the Women’s World Cup in 1991. However, she was constantly benched and never really got the opportunity to showcase her skill. According to Ajunwa, she did not regret her decision to leave football because she felt unfairly treated by a particular coach.
Track and Field
As a track and field athlete, Chioma Ajunwa specialized in 100m, 200m, and long jump. She won a bronze medal in the 4 * 100 metres relay at the 1990 Commonwealth Games and a gold medal in the long jump at the 1991 All African Games. In 1992, she failed a drug test and was banned from the sport for four years, despite insisting on her innocence.
After completing her suspension, Ajunwa broke the record as the first West-African and Nigerian to win an Olympic gold medal in a track and field event. With a jump length of 7.12 metres in the final, Ajunwa won the women’s long jump at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.
In 2017, Chioma Ajunwa launched her foundation to discover and support Nigerian stars in sports. In 2018, the Chioma Ajunwa-Opara foundation, in collaboration with the Abia state government, sponsored an Under-16 Athletics Championship for Secondary schools. Ajunwa also started a self-funded anti-doping campaign called “Compete Fair and Clear” through which she spreads anti-doping messages to athletes and coaches all over the country.
To commemorate her Olympic Gold medal, the then head of state, Sani Abacha, gave Ajunwa a national award called Member of the Order of Nigeria. Imo state also awarded her a chieftaincy title. In 2018, she became an assistant commissioner of police.