Nigeria's Track Diva, Gloria Asumnu, a medal prospect at the London 2012, bares her mind on her preparation for the Olympics, the switch to Team Nigeria and her experience at last month's World Athletics Championship in Istanbul, Turkey in this exclusive interview with Athletics Africa's Oke Oluku.
AA: Nigerians would want to know who Gloria Asumnu is.
GA: I was born in Houston, Texas. But my parents (Rosaline Nnadozie and Christian Asumnu) were born in Nigeria and are from Imo State. They moved to the states for college and have raised me here but have always let me know where I am from.
AA: In your debut for Nigeria in Last year’s All Africa Games in Mozambique, you won a medal. What were the feelings like?
GA: The All African Games was a different experience for me. Yes, I won a medal but it was no where near my best performance. I was excited to win it for the country but just not happy with my performance.
AA: When you were disqualified by IAAF on your eligibility to run for Nigeria last year, what was on your mind?
GA: When I was told that I couldn't compete for Nigeria last year, I initially just shut down because it felt everything I worked for I just lost. Luckily, things turned around, I wish it was resolved sooner; I thank God for that.
AA: Can you share your experience with Nigerians on the World Indoors in Turkey, What went wrong?
GA: My experience in Turkey was fun. I was excited to compete in my first world indoors and also make the final. Nothing went wrong, what most of you don't know is prior to competition, two days after I ran a Personal Best (PB) of 7.07, I had a light strain to my hamstring. This was six days before competition. But I did my best through all the pains I was feeling. I had a great chance at getting a medal but three rounds on a hurt hamstring was tough, but I did what I could. Unfortunately it wasn't enough. The one thing I can say is that at a major championship we didn't have a physio like other countries and our athletes definitely needed one there.
AA: Before now you were running for the United States, what made you decide to run for Nigeria?
GA: I considered it out of college as well as back in 2009, but there were a lot of external factors that didn't allow me to make the switch, but also due to how poorly Nigeria is represented then and even now people don't have good things to say. I am hoping things will change and get better for us as a country.
AA: This is an Olympic year, and you hope to be there, what should Nigerians expect from you?
GA: You should expect from every athlete representing Nigeria to compete at their best ability. My primary focus is making sure that I am healthy and fit so that I am able to give my best performances in the sprints and relays.
AA: Talking about preparations for athletes and coaches, do you think Nigeria is doing enough?
GA: As far as preparations go no, I think more needs to be done.
AA: Running in the 100m, 200m and relay in London will pitch you against Carmelita Jeter, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and others, any chance of picking a medal from this group?
GA: It’s going to be a talented group of ladies in the sprints at the Olympic Games. As far as medals goes, you have to make the final first. Then show up and compete in that final. So I'm not picking a winner at this point.
AA: With the preparation going on right now in athletics, do you think Nigeria athletics have a chance at medals in London?
GA: I think we have a chance at medals in the relay, but there is so much lack of communication. If we are able to pull together and run the relay, more than once then expect good things. But If we just show up with no preparation then, well you know the rest.
AA: What has been your career highlights to date?
GA: World indoor championships and finishing 6th, but also, I have Personal Records (PRs) of 11.03 in the 100m. Also I did 22.70 in the 200m and ran 10.95 seconds wind 2.5 and 7.07seconds in the 60m. I was a 4 time all American at Tulane University. You can confirm it through Google.
AA: Raising the standard of Nigeria athletics, what do you think should be done?
GA: I think we all know what should be done, but first and foremost we need better communication and also people who are in it for the love of the sport and not just financial gains.
AA: Who is your role model in Nigeria athletics?
GA: My role models aren't limited to the Nigerian athletics but I hold a lot of respect for Mary Onyali because of what she stands for and has done previously. But also because she stands up and believes in us and understands what we are trying to accomplish because she has done it herself. So she knows our struggles, battles, and the hard work we have to put in.
AA: If not athletics, what would you have been into?
GA: Well I am a mother so with or without athletics, that part of me remains. Everyone knows I love fashion and glamour so I see myself working in those avenues. But I also have a strong passion for children. So nursing, working in Labour and Delivery is what I would be doing.
AA: Advice for upcoming athletes
GA: I would tell them to continue to give 100% at all times and even when you don't feel good. Stay positive and keep positive people around you. Also, learn to have short term memory in the sport. If you have a bad race its ok. Learn from it and move on and keep a positive mindset. They can achieve anything they want as long as they put in the work and believe they can do it.
Video: Asumnu at the Mixed Zone after the 60m Women Qualification Heat in Istanbul 2012
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