BY PAUL EREWUBA
Despite the non – payment of the monitary reward entitled to her when President Mohammadu Buhari rewarded Nigeria’s outstanding sportsmen and women in January, Lauritta Onye, a 1.25ft tall athlete, who specialises in field events discus and shot-put has remained undaunted.
Onye, a native of Ikeduru in Imo State stunned bookmakers and keen Paralympics watchers, when she lifted Nigeria’s name by clinching gold medal at the ongoing Rio Paralympic Games in Brazil.
Team Nigeria got her latest medal in the women’s Shot Put event, through Lauritta Onye. However, her fourth throw of 8.40m secured the Gold medal.
Onye’s tale could be likened to the proverbial stone that was rejected, which later formed the bedrock.
Onye set a new world record, at the 7th IPC Athletics World Championships in Doha, Qatar, last year, where she won gold in shot-put.
The feat earned her a spot amongst outstanding athletes that were rewarded by President Buhari, but she and her coach, Patrick Anaeto, as well as Secretary of the Para-athletics Federation of Nigeria, Olabisi Aziz had not been paid, though officials of the sports ministry collected their bank account numbers with a promise to pay them their money.
“On that day I was called to have a handshake with the president. But later they realised my name was not mentioned, but my picture was on the brochure of the athletes that should be rewarded. My picture was the last,” Onye, who had also made her mark in the Nollywood industry, told Saturday Sunsport.
“They didn’t announce the amount they will pay us, but the woman from the sports ministry who collected my account number that of my coach and the PFN secretary, is yet to get back to us.”
She added that she had planned to use the money to prepare for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, but found preparations difficult and appealed to the Minister of Youth and Sports, Solomon Dalung, to help her in recovering her dues.
But several months before the Rio Paralympic Games, the money never came and Onye had to rely on begging to see her through.
Indeed, by dint of hard work and determination, she made the cut in the 23-man athletes that are representing Nigeria at the Rio Paralympics.
Few weeks to the games, Onye’s phone was stolen while she was training at the National Stadium, Lagos. She could neither contact her coach nor her siblings. She didn’t even have N2, 000 to buy a new one.
And to add to her sorrow, her Landlord threatened to evict her from her self contained Orile Iganmu, Lagos home, if she failed to pay her rent, which was due last year December.
But she refused to be cowed. She kept on training and communicated her coach with one of her siblings’ phone which she would borrow any time she wanted to tell him her whereabouts.
“Oga, I have not eaten this morning and I don’t even have money to go for training tomorrow”, she told Saturday Sunsport at the National Stadium, Lagos after a hard day’s training. Please pray for me so that I come tops at Rio,” she pleaded.
Today, Onye is living her dreams. She had once again proved that determination and hard work pays.