By Jon Essien
Tokyo 2020 may have ended for Uche Eke, but the gymnast has surely etched his name into Nigeria’s history books as the first Nigerian to compete in Artistic Gymnastics at the Olympic Games.
Eke, who was Nigeria’s sole representative at the on-going event, saw his hope of winning a medal dashed after he missed the chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals in the gymnastics event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on Saturday.
Competing in the men’s all round artistic gymnastics event, Eke placed 36th with a score of 74.765 – which was not enough for a place in the last eight.
However, the 24-year-old’s best performance came in the third Rotation while competing in the Vault where he scored 13.433 points, and then put up remarkable showings on the Floor (12.833 points) and the Pommel Horse (12.866 points).
While Eke’s ouster has come as a disappointment to the country’s sporting fraternity, there’s no hidden truth that his feat has put Nigeria on the world map in Gymnastics.
By flying the country’s flag at the event, a thing that has never happened since 1952 when the country started participating in Olympics, Eke has proven that Nigerians can actually make it to the biggest stage in Gymnastics.
Before now, not many knew enough about Eke. Like in sports, Eke is outstanding intellectually, having bagged a Margaret Mann award for demonstrating exceptional academic ability.
He graduated from the University Of Michigan School Of Information’s Master of Science in Information program with a 4.0 GPA.
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.
Eke represented Nigeria two years ago at the African Games in Rabat, Morocco – where he won Gold medal in the Pommel Horse.
Eke began his journey into the sport as early as when he was three years old. The young lad started showing glimpses of great prospects, doing back-flips in his parents’ living room, and by so doing, caught the attention of his family – who saw him through Gymnastics.
Eke has often made no secret of his love for Nigeria, noting that he wants to bring honor to the country where his father was born and where he visits twice a year.
“What’s driving me is that I want to give back to Nigeria every time I go,” he said.
To mark the occasion of representing Nigeria at the Olympics, he had to dye some part of his hair green to show what the moment meant to him.
Eke may have missed a shot at the medals’ table, but a number of positives have been taken from his participation. And at just 24, there’s still more he can do for Nigeria.