“As an American born of full Nigerian ancestry, there’s always a bit of an identity crisis” – Enekwechi
Chukwuebuka Enekwechi, was one of the most popular names in Nigeria athletics media in the outgoing year. This is because he became the country’s first Commonwealth Shot Put medallist in 24-years, and won the African Championship Gold medal in a record of 21.08m.
Asides these, Enekwechi also represented Africa at the IAAF Continental Cup in Ostrava, where he finished a commendable 4th throwing 20.82m to qualify for the World Championship in Doha. He then capped his breakout season with a National Sports Festival record of 20.36m.
These accolades and more were what made him 2018 Nigeria’s best male performer based on fans votes, earn a spot on our 2019 senior preseason watch list, and be our guest on our self-acclaimed ‘Talking Point’ – A Facebook live chat, where he answers our’s and fans questions about his career and development of Shot Put in Nigeria.
Read on for a full transcript of the chat with the 26-year-old.
I first got into Athletics when I was 16 years old. I was a fan of professional wrestling and I wanted to change my body and look like the wrestlers I saw on TV. At my high school, the only way I was allowed to lift weights in the gym was if I joined a sports team. Coincidentally I was approached by the Track and Field Head Coach and shortly after, I decided to join the team and the rest is history.
So let’s just say wrestling was your first sport love?
Yes. I still watch it at least twice a week.
Kazeem Ajibola (Facebook fan): As a kid, do you feel cheated changing from wrestling to Athletics?
No. I have grown to love and understand athletics especially throwing more than I understand anything else in sport. Wrestling is still very entertaining but I have no regrets not pursuing it.
Summarizing 2018 season
Yes, 2018 outdoors was a great season. Indoors started with the World Championships in Birmingham, as my big goal. I threw the qualifier and was peaking to go and do well. Lots of things went wrong and were out of my control. It culminated with a throw of 19.72m. After not making the final, I went home absolutely broke with shattered confidence and a 31hr trip to look forward to.
The next meet was the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. The meet organisers did a tremendous job with food, accommodations and transportation. All I had to worry about was throwing. I wound up qualifying for the final on my first throw with 20.64m, and the next night fighting for a medal with a lifetime best of 21.14m and a silver medal. That was one of the proudest moments of my life.
Later on that season, I had the African Championships in Asaba, Nigeria. I had been training myself for months and was attempting to secure another major medal after a long year. The competition was organised by Nigeria. Despite that fact, I was blessed to throw over 21m again for Gold and qualify for the World Cup, where I finished fourth. I was faced with many hardships but the bright spots made it alright in the end.
Definitely the highs outweigh the lows?
In general, yes.
Choice of opting for Nigeria though having a dual citizenship and the challenges faced so far…
Haha. I was actively recruited by Nigerians to represent Nigeria in athletics. As an American born person of full Nigerian ancestry, there’s always a bit of an identity crisis. You’re never quite American in America and you’re not Nigerian enough in Nigeria. When Nigerian athletes and coaches began recruiting me for the team going to Gwangju, I decided to represent Nigeria. An injury prevented me from going that summer. Long story short. I never considered throwing for the USA.
As far as the challenges that Athletes face in Nigeria…there aren’t enough words to describe them. I wasn’t adequately briefed on what to expect.
Now that you’ve seen everything, do you have any regrets?
hahaha (that’s my answer).
On fitting into the Nigerian system and challenging NR holder Stephen Mozia, for the top spot…
Mozia is a good friend of mine, he holds the outdoor record. The indoor record is held however by Josh Awotunde, another good buddy of mine who is opting to throw for the USA. Athletics in Nigeria has kinda forced them to prioritise other options than representing Nigeria in the Shot Put. It is a big goal of mine every year to continue improving and qualifying for major championships. The National Records may come along with it.
Fun Fact – I threw an “unofficial” National Record in the Hammer Throw in 2015 of 72.77m. I took a drug test to make sure the record would be valid and legal. The record was never ratified. Christian Okoye is still recognised as the record holder. I’ve since shifted my focus away from National Records.
Yes, Josh. Sad to hear he’s opting to throw for the USA. But no one can blame him though. The trio of you would have really raised the competitive level and brought more international recognition to the event in Nigeria. Don’t you think so?
Yes, I think so. We had potential of being one of the best Shot Put countries in the world rivalling USA and Poland. Nigeria has the genetics to rule the world in Athletics but not the desire to do so.
@aanjie (from Twitter): When you mean “Nigeria” has the genetics buh not the desire to rule the world… what hinders our desires?
I wish I knew.
Goals for 2019…
I’m already qualified for the World Championship after throwing 20.82m at the World Cup (the day after qualification opened up). I plan to go to Qatar in 21m shape or better and have a great competition. I have the same exact goal for the African Games. Africa and the World are littered with talent just waiting to show themselves and I’m just hoping to do all the right things to be among the best.
That means you’re the first Nigerian athlete to officially be in Doha? Congratulations!
Thanks, but there were some top names from Nigeria that were present for the World Cup and in great shape. I don’t think I’m the only one. Lol.
You already have a career best season opener of 20.5m this year. How confident are you as the season progresses?
Yes, it was my best season opener and I’m very confident about the outdoor season. I threw in that meet just so that people I cared about could watch me compete. It showed me that I can throw very far when I’m healthy and in good competition shape.
Gregory Airende (Facebook fan): What is your biggest achievement so far as a shot-putter?
Hi! Throwing 21m+ at the Commonwealth Games for a Silver medal and 21m+ for the African Championship are tied as my greatest achievements thus far.
- Amusan and Enekwechi wins Gold for Nigeria
- “It’s a huge honour to represent the entire continent of Africa at the Continental Cup” – Enekwechi
- Facts, Records and History made by Team Nigeria GOLD medallists in Asaba
- Team Nigeria’s best performers at the African Championship in Asaba
In addition to his question, what’s your lowest career moment both as a college student and professional?
My lowest moment was not being picked for the Olympic team despite being qualified based on my world ranking in 2016.
Thoughts on the AFN President naming D’banj and Teni as new faces of Nigeria Athletics…
My first reaction was “CHAI!!” I still don’t really understand it. Hopefully the AFN trusts and invests in their athletes and that we make them proud in the future.
Way forward on Shot Put development and throwers in Nigeria to global recognition…
It comes down to money. There are enough people, enough large and powerful men to throw far and at an elite level. There also happens to be absolutely no support, training and living costs money. Athletics cost money as well before you start making more than you spend. I think we need to stop looking for the potential poorest elite athlete and start trying to build people from the ground up as far as financial backing. Most people will invest all of their time into athletics if they know they’ll be fine money-wise during the journey.
Improved knowledge of strength and conditioning would also benefit Nigeria as far as the throwing events are concerned. The Nigerian throwers that don’t have excessive adipose tissue all look like body builders, instead of looking like power-lifters. It shows that the training is rigorous but not conducive to throwing far.
Lastly, focus on the rotational technique is necessary. The glide is dead by all accounts and 99% of elite shot-putters worldwide are implementing the spin. Spin to win!
@aanjie (Twitter fan): The closest competitor to you in Nigeria is Kalu, whose mark is still very far to yours… what plan do you have to encourage and motivate upcoming throwers in the game?
All I can do from my position is the throw far and show that it’s possible. Hopefully that serves as motivation for my compatriots.
@AbbasAsiru (Twitter fan): Why are you not doing the Discus the way you do the SP regularly?
I’ve never been a Discus thrower.
But you do the Hammer Throw right?
Love for throwing…
Hahahahahaha. I always talk about the lack of understanding of Shot Put in two stages.
Stage 1: How heavy it is. People don’t quite realise that the ball is 16lbs or 7.26kg, the weight of a bowling ball or a small dog. After they realise it’s heavy they graduate to:
Stage 2: realising that we don’t just pick up the heavy ball and put it down. We pick the heavy ball up and throw the very heavy ball very far.
I love that myself and my peers are some of the strongest people in the world. Also the fact that the ball and the ring are always the same size so it’s kinda a puzzle trying to figure out what you and your body have to do differently to throw farther. It requires strategy like any other sport or event and it’s also simply fun.
Favourite Nigerian food and place to visit…
As for Nigerian food, I can eat Jollof three times a day. I can’t visit too often but my Dad’s place in Anambra State, was my favourite. Had a lot of sentimental value for me.
Advise for young throwers and plans to coach in future…
Young throwers should understand that throwing is just a sport. They should find out why they’re doing it maybe it’s for a scholarship to university, or to become active and healthier, or to become one of the all-time greats. They should just know that throwing isn’t everything in life and does not make one a good or a bad person.
Also, the sport changes before your eyes and often for the worst so always have a Plan B. Once upon a time, throwers were going to the Olympics with 20m and making thousands of dollars after all. If throwing doesn’t work out, it’s fine to move on.
And yes, I do intend on coaching in the future. I’m currently coaching at the high school level. I would like to be a University coach and if that doesn’t work immediately, I’ll find work in my area of study.
Thanks for your time chatting with us…
Thanks for having me. I had a lot of fun answering these questions. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter @TheChukSays.