Mary Onyali goes back in time, 23 years after her historic Olympic medal
On August 1st, 23 years ago, Amb. Chief Mary Onyali OLY crowned her successful track and field career with an individual Olympic medal, four years after anchoring the 4x100m relay team to a bronze medal finish at the 1992 Barcelona Games
Onyali’s glorious run into Olympic glory came three days after Falilat Ogunkoya opened what would become the floodgate of medals with her 400m bronze win in an African-record setting 49.10 seconds. Onyali followed up with a 200m bronze before Chioma Ajunwa put the icing on the giant cake with a first ever gold by Nigeria at the quadrennial Games.
In an exclusive chat with Athletic Heat, the multiple African Champion reminisced the 1996 Atlanta Olympics glory.
“One can’t explain such feelings in plain words! After the birth of my daughter, my first child, my Atlanta individual Olympic Bronze medal in the 200m medal was the next best thing.” She said.
When asked if she envisioned the medal prior to the Games, she said, “Oh yes I saw it coming! I worked hard, planned, and programmed everything and everyone around me to fall in place for that moment.”
Enroute the finals, Mary Onyali finished second in her heat posting 22.42s, she went on to the quarterfinals placing 2nd again but bettering her time to 22.37s behind Marie-Jose Perec who later won the race.
In the semifinals, Onyali was 2nd again behind Marie-Jose, this time running a blistering 22.16s while the former ran 22.07s. In the final, the 7-time All African individual medalist, finished 3rd behind Marie-Jose (22.12) and Marlene Ottey (22.24) posting 22.38s.
“Clinching that individual Bronze medal was the icing needed on the cake of my athletic career. I wanted it so badly because I knew that after that, age, interest and the hunger to achieve more may be tough to come by.” she said with excitement.
Did that laurel open more doors for her? She said, “Definitely! That individual medal opened up lots of doors and opportunities and a final sense of fulfilled sports career and a lifetime dream
Since retirement, Chief Mary Onyali has served on various boards including being the Special Adviser (Technical) to the Director General of the National Sports Commission. She was also a part of the consultation committee for the proposer Sportd University of Nigeria.
In 2016, Chief Onyali was appointed the Ambassador for the Skoolympics Championships sponsored by heritage bank. She is also the Executive Director, Nigeria Sports Development Fund Inc. The NSDFI is a project borne out of the zeal of 11 current and ex-athletes to see Nigeria sports rise again after it has fallen into bad times. Those involved includes African 200m Record holder Blessing Okagbare, 1996 Olympic Gold medalist Chioma Ajunwa s, Funke Oshonaike, Chika Chukwumerije, Aruna Quadri amongst other top Nigerian internationals. Late SundayBada, Amodu Shuaibu and Olajide Fashikun of blessed memory were also part of this program.
A few weeks ago, the dazzling sprinter during her days was appointed Anambra State Sports Ambassador by the state governor, Mr Obiano during the reception of Team Anambra state contingents to the 19th National Sports Festival held last December. It was a conferment well deserved by the Ndi Anambra.