Uchenna Emedolu (ehmehDOHloo), Nigeria (100m)
Born 17 September 1976, Adazi-Ani, Aniocha, Anambra State, South East Nigeria.
Single; former football player
Attended Agulu Boys High School in Adazi-Ani
Unlike many of Nigeria’s top track and field stars, Uche Emedolu did not take part in any junior competitions, either in Nigeria or abroad. In fact, he was forced into athletics by circumstances beyond his control.
Emedolu’s first love was football—he was captain of his high school team—but like a lot of teenagers, he was a sporting jack of many trades—football, volleyball and some athletics. “I concentrated more on football where I was the school captain. I believed I was a better footballer than a track and field athlete,” he said.
But sport remained nothing but a pastime, even though Emedolu’s efforts were enthusiastically supported by his father. When his father’s died in 1993, however, his attitude toward sports changed.
“When my father died, everything became difficult for me,” says Emedolu. “It was then I thought of going into sports for what I can get from it in terms of material things. I was combining football with athletics until late 1997, when coach Tobias Igwe advised me to concentrate on athletics, insisting that is where I have a brighter future.”
Emedolu wasn’t convinced, however, and barely a year after receiving Igwe’s advice, he dropped track to concentrate entirely on football. He travelled to Malta for professional trials and stayed there 10 months, until he concluded that things were not working out and he came back home. Luckily, coach Igwe was still around to convince him his future lay in athletics.
“I decided to follow coach Igwe’s advice,” says Emedolu. “In anger, I sold my football boots so that I wouldn’t be seeing a sad reminder of a failed dream.”
It took Emodolu just a year in athletics to get the attention and fame he had craved in football. He participated in his first national championships in 2000 but failed to qualify for the Sydney Olympics. Providence smiled on him, however, when Nigerian athletics authorities gave him and a few others a final chance to contest for a place on the team at the training camp in Adelaide, Australia. Emedolu clocked 20.69 for 200m, inside the Olympic standard, and was named to the team. Unfortunately, he crashed out in the quarter-finals (20.93) after opening with a 20.87 run in his first-round heat.
Emedolu’s Olympic experience prepared him for 2001 when he went as far as the semi-finals of both the 100 (5th in 10.29) and the 200 (7th in 20.40) at the Edmonton World Championships.
It was in 2002, however, that he got full reward for his decision to switch to athletics.
He won a silver medal in the 100m (10.11) at the Manchester Commonwealth Games and ten days later collected another at the African Championships in Rades (10.00w). Then, in September he became the first African to win the 100m title at the IAAF World Cup, clocking a PB 10.06 in Madrid’s Estadio Communidad.
In 2003 he improved his World Championship placing, reaching the Paris 100m final and finishing 8th in 10.22. He then won bronze at 100m at the IAAF World Athletics final in Monaco (10.08) and capped his season with a pair of medals—gold (200m in 20.42) and silver (100m in PB 9.97 behind teammate Deji Aliu)—at the 8th All Africa Games in Abuja.
This season, Emedolu began strongly with a 10.05 / 20.39 double in Rethimno, Greece, in June, but was slowed by injury shortly thereafter. Following four weeks on the sidelnes, he returned to the track in late July with a 10.26 and resumed preparations for Athens.
Prepared by Dare Esan for the IAAF "Focus on Africans" project. Copyright IAAF 2004.