The mere fact Uche Eke was the first Nigerian in history to compete in Artistic Gymnastics at an Olympic Games, was a win on its own, it didn’t matter much whether he was challenging for a medal, the new found fans were quite happy he was putting the country on that sporting map.
Eke on Saturday at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics competed in the men’s All-Around, and as at the time of this report, he was in 36th place overall after the two subdivisions were concluded amassing 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 respectable showings on the Floor (12.833 points) and the Pommel Horse (12.866 points).
— Making of Champions (@MakingOfChamps) July 25, 2021
Not many Nigerian fans knew who Eke was before the Olympics, and despite the fact that he won a GOLD medal in the Pommel Horse two years ago in Rabat at the African Games, Gymnastics is not a household name in Nigeria.
With Eke’s emergence on the scene, and showing that Nigerians can actually make it to the Olympics in Gymnastics, there’s no doubt he is already inspiring a new wave of attention for the sport in the country where Football has held sway for a long time.
“Being the first male Artistic Gymnast repping Nigeria is crazy. I feel so happy because my dream just turned into reality. I have been dreaming of this moment ever since I was a kid,” Eke said just before the commencement of the Games.
Born in the United States to a Nigerian immigrant father, Eke started making a name for himself in Gymnastics competing for his college team Michigan Wolverines men’s gymnastics team, before joining the Fairland Gymnastics club.
His journey has justified the importance of “catching them young,” Eke as early as when he was three years old started showing great promise, doing backflips in his parents’ living room, and that was what inspired his family to nurture him towards Gymnastics.
On social media, some fans have been questioning his true allegiance, with some even thinking Nigeria was a last resort for him. But Eke has never hidden what it meant to him representing Nigeria, in fact he visits the country at least twice in a year, and has always had Nigeria as his first choice country, even though he could have also represented the United States.
“I dream about raising my hand, saluting, getting ready to perform my routines. I dream of walking out on the main stage with the Nigerian colors. Too bad there won’t be any fans there to raise the flag. But it’s ok. It’s all in my heart” Eke told Baltimoresun.com just before the Olympics. In fact to commemorate the occasion, he had to dye some part of his green to show what the moment meant to him.
His Olympics might have ended, but surely he has entered the Nigerian history books. Still only 23, there’s a lot more Olympics he could still be to wearing the kits of his fatherland.
Many thanks to Paga for being the official sponsor of Making of Champions coverage of the Tokyo Olympics.