By Fred Edoreh
It is so reassuring to see that Lucy Ejike is among the seven female Para Powerlifters to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
She presented an interesting champions’ challenge on the floors of both London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games.
In London, all eyes were on Egypt’s Fatma Omar who was holding the world record in the +56kg class which Lucy had elevated to. Lucy stood up to challenge her.
The contest was hot. All other contenders were shoved off to leave the floor for just the two.
Lucy took lead with a lift of 135.5kg. Fatma raised the bar with 137. Lucy came back with 138kg. Fatma moved it to 140.
The spectators were wild in expectation as Lucy returned but… her last attempt to catch up with Fatma didn’t click. She finished with a silver behind the Egyptian and she was sad.
Both athletes would meet again at the Rio 2016 Games. This time in 61kg class in which Mexico’s Amalia Perez held the world record with 133kg.
Lucy told herself she would continue the fight from London, not only to win the gold and dethrone Amalia as world record holder but to ensure that Fatma, the Egyptian we saw in London, is seen no more in the title chase in Rio.
She set the bar with a lift of 135kg. Fatma came on to equal it. Then she raised it to 138kg and again to 142kg. Both Fatma and Amalia could not cope. Lucy not only fulfilled her promise of beating the Egyptian, she set a new world record with the Rio 2016 gold.
Lucy comes with a huge profile. She has been to five Paralympic Games since Sydney 2000 and has won medals in all of them.
Starting with a silver in 44kg class at the Sydney Games, she proceeded to break the games record twice at Athens 2004, lifting 127.5kg to win the gold. She posted a repeat performance in the 48kg class at Beijing 2008, breaking the world record with her first lift of 125kg which she raised to 130kg in her second lift. She had wanted to put the record beyond perpetual reach in her third lift but she faltered in her attempt to lift 137.5kg. Still, the gold was good enough. She also came off with a gold at the Mexico 2017 World Championships.
Such is the stuff of which she is made. She would be one of the beauties to watch in Tokyo.
No doubt, Fatma and other world champions must be preparing hard against her but Lucy is a tried and tested old war horse.
Though confined to her wheelchair because of the Polio she suffered from childhood, she has grown to challenge all life odds and has taken to powerlifting to establish her enviable place in the universe of champions.
She knows the game, she knows the tricks and she works hard to maintain both her physical and mental strength as she continues to bring glory to Nigeria.
Fred Edoreh, former chairman of Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Lagos chapter, a public affair analyst, wrote this piece to seek support and attention for Tokyo 2020 Paralympic-bound Nigerian athletes.