After winning gold medal at the just concluded National Sports Festival (NSF), multi-gold winning Taekwondo Athlete, Elizabeth Anyanacho, a student of Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) is already fixing her gaze on clinching another gold at the highest sporting fiesta, Olympics, come 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.
In this exclusive interview with Ikenna Okonkwo, Anyanacho who is only 19 years old and already has eight gold medals in her various outings in the past few years of her sporting career, shares her views and experiences.
My Taekwondo career began when I was in the secondary school. I have always wanted to be a sports person. Initially, I didn’t think towards becoming a Taekwondo Athlete. I only liked combat sports as a means of defence.
So, when I eventually started training, my major focus was to learn defence skills and not to compete. But as time went on, I developed more interest. Till today, I’m in it. This is about my five years in Taekwondo.
When I started, I didn’t get the opportunity to compete at the juniors where I started. I had to train for a long time before I began to compete straight to the senior level. The challenges were much because I have always focused on being at par with my seniors because I train with them. And at times, I compete with them. So it kind of toughened me up and my development was quicker.
I was always eager to compete but my coach will always tell me to wait and train more and be ready before I go out there to compete.
Combining education with sports
I got admission last year to study Statistics at Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO). It’s not been easy, very tasking. Upon all the challenges associated with combining academics and sports, God has been seeing me through. It’s been good all the way.
I have to put extra time. I had to make use of the time when I’m less busy to train. Even though I wasn’t doing a lot of kicking while in school, I use to go for my jogging every morning. When I returned, I had to train more and put in more to regain what I lost.
So far, I have a schedule but sometimes my school activities use to overthrow my sporting schedule. I have to most of the times, focus mostly on my academies so I will have much challenges. Right now, I’m in two hundred levels, I don’t have any carry over, no issues yet.
I entered the school with the mindset that I will do well. I’m aiming for first class actually when I’m due for graduation. It depends on how I manage my time that will determine if I’m working well with it. I have to learn how to manage the school and manage my sporting career. If I can learn to manage the both, I’m sure I will succeed.
Whenever I have a competition and there are crucial academic exercises like examination, I will have to get in touch with the school management. That’s why we have course Advisers in school and our Head of department. Even if it takes me to go for the competition and come back and take my examination. When I go to them to explain, I’m sure they will understand.
I also want to use this medium to thank the school very well, they have been quite helpful. If there are issues, we will always go to the course Advisers and they have not failed to listen.
I don’t fear my opponent whenever I’m to confront anyone. Before any fight, I prepare my mind psychologically and believe that no one can defeat me no matter what. I’m much fired up that I tell myself that even if my opponent will defeat me, let that happen after I have put in my best, not out of fear or I will just give up. And so far, I have been coasting to victories in virtually every fight I have fought.
I got into combat sport, knowing that I will be hit severally. And I braced up for whatever come out of it.
My preference for Taekwondo
My initial thought of joining Taekwondo was to use it as self defence. After sometimes, I developed interest and passion to compete, bearing in mind that I could actually get something more out of this, I could actually improve.
As time goes on, I decided to take it to another level and continue. I didn’t Taekwondo to make money. It’s just for love I have for the sport, not for the money. I was driven by passion and the need to gain more experience in the sport. I have always dreamt of going places and that is what I have experienced so far.
Going deeper into Taekwondo, Friends and family relationship/perception
For the fact I do Taekwondo, some of my mates are afraid and see me as a fighter. But for me, I don’t tend to bully. I just be myself and go, keep it that way so that I don’t lose respect.
My first interest in Taekwondo
As a kid, I always like watching too many action movies. That was how I was inspired and my interest grew in combat sports.
Role model factor
My role model right now is my coach, Engr. Chika Chukwumerije. I don’t watch too many movies again. Due to the way my coach has impacted my life, I have improved tremendously. The way he handles us during training is unique. He doesn’t only teach us how to kick and all other Taekwondo skills, he also mentors us and model us to be focused.
My vision as a Taekwondo Athlete
Olympics is where my eyes are fixed right now. I’m looking forward to the Olympics next year in Tokyo, Japan. I can wait to compete at the highest level. I’m going for the gold at the Olympics. I’m not concerned about the circumstances or whoever I will compete with, where she comes from.
All I want to care about is going there to do what I know how to do best and emerge victorious afterwards. I’m not looking at the countries that will come or the Athletes that will represent them. My concern at any level of my sporting career is to stick to my coaches’ instructions at all times. All I care for is the gold medal.
My first ever National Sports Festival experience
The National Sports Festival was the best experience in my sporting career so far. Before the festival, I trained like I wanted it, beyond the way I use to train. I trained with the mindset that I have to get this, with another purpose that I just have to win. I learned how to control the tension. Even with all the tension, I was still determined to get what I was focused on. I have to control and comport myself.
Gold target at NSF
I wasn’t too sure I will get the gold. But I still kept pushing despite what. I still went for it, because that was what I needed. I was like even if I lose, I will know I was beaten, not like I will just chicken out.
There were no much challenges. The only challenge I had was that in my final, I was a beat tired. I have to fight with everything I got. So, I had to train more and improve my endurance level so that I will conserve strength while fighting.