Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, born on the 3rd of February 1969 in Adamawa State is one of the most notable names in Nigeria’s sporting history. As a sportswoman, She has bagged many honours in her chosen career. Regarded as a foremost and a well-disciplined athlete, her laurels include; the Olympic medal, Gold medals from the all African Games in Kenya, Cairo, as well as Gold Medals from the World Junior Athletics Championship.
Early Years and Rise in Athleticism
Born at a time when being anything but an athlete was the norm for the girl-child, Mary was set on course, at least societally, to be the everyday woman; get an education, be prim and proper, get married and raise children. But fate at times, interjects at the least expected moments. Mary’s inclinations were different; a show of self-will, determination, discipline carved a different path for her; different from the norm. Her competitive nature eventually got her caught up in the web of sports; track and field particularly. Fortunately enough, her elementary school was well laced with sporting activities, and this gave her the opportunity to participate. This engagement in sports transcended to high school, where she competed and excelled in long jump, high jump and track events. The rest as they say, is history.
Mary Onyali: Born to Win
Mary’s exceptional performances continued for the greater part of her life, while she competed. After she turned professional, the racking up of medals began. For example, She performed exceptionally well in the All-Africa Games, winning a total of 7 individual medals in the short sprints. She won 100 m in 1991, 1995 and 2003 and took a bronze medal in 1987. Gold medals in 200 m were taken in 1987, 1995 and 2003. Furthermore, the Nigerian 4 x 100 m relay team won all races between 1987 and 2003, at the African Games.
Mary Onyali ran for Nigeria from 1983 and continued at a professional level till 2004. Within the period of her professional career as an athlete, She obtained a college degree in the United States in Telecommunications and Theatre. Her consecutive Olympic appearances from 1988 to 2004 made her the first Nigerian to compete at five Olympics. This feat was equalled by table tennis players Bose Kaffo and Segun Toriola four years later in Beijing, PR China.
She once served as the Special Adviser (Technical) to a one-time Director-General of the National Sports Commission in Nigeria. She was a part of the consultation committee for the proposed Sports University of Nigeria, Idumuje-Ugboko. She made a name for herself in the track and field world, establishing several prestigious marks on the way. Popularly called the Queen of Nigerian sprints, Mary continues to hold the Nigerian 200m record, and is still ranked in the top 10 of the collegiate all-time list in both the 100 and 200m. Mary Onyali-Omagbemi is a Queen; as one of the most accomplished Nigerian female sprinters of her time, her name deserves to be etched in the sands of time; especially in Nigeria and Africa’s sportsmen/women hall of fame.
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