Akwa Ibom-born Judoka, Enku Ewa Ekuta achieved her greatest success yet earlier in the year when she qualified for the Tokyo Olympics games, becoming the first Nigerian female judoka to do so in 17 years.
Incidentally, the last Nigerian woman who qualified and competed in the Olympics was her mother, Catherine Ekusa.
Enku’s mother, Catherine represented Nigeria at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
Speaking with Boluwaji Ogunmola on Saturday Breakfast Sports, Enku, who hailed from a rich bloodline of judokas, said she didn’t need to wait until she was old enough to make a decision on her choice of sport.
“My Dad is a coach, my mum is also a coach so Judo is in my blood because I don’t struggle with Judo, when I was younger, I was energetic, they took me for competitions, I like the sport and that was how I started”, Enku said.
Her first step at eight months old at a Judo event was during the 1998 National Sports Festival in Imo State, where her parents, Ewa and Catherine represented Akwa Ibom state.
Ekuta’s father, Mr Ewa, is also a former judoka who excelled at the National League level. He is now a coach, Referee, and the current Technical Director of the Nigeria Judo Federation.
Speaking on the influence of her parents on her career, Enku said “My Dad is more like a coach every time when I’m sleeping, he wakes me up and the first thing he says is Judo but my mum knows that when we are in the gym, and when we are in the house but my Dad is crazy about Judo, he eats, drinks and lives Judo. My Dad being my coach helps me a lot because he takes me to competitions and makes me win, I’m proud to have him”, she stated.
Speaking about the role her mother, a former Olympian, played in her Olympic qualification, Enku said: “It feels like heritage, my mummy set apart for me and I have to follow it, so I feel okay, and feel good that I’m taking after my mother’s footsteps”, the Akwa Ibomite said with delight.
The University of Port Harcourt Undergraduate is currently the only Nigerian Judoka (male or female) to have qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
On becoming Nigeria’s sole flagbearer in the Judo Event of the Tokyo Olympics, Enku said she feels blessed and honored.
“I feel good and great because at some point I felt nobody would qualify for the judo event as it’s been a while, so I feel honored and blessed that I qualified”
While the 22-year-old has been coached by her father since childhood, and her mother playing the part of a role model for her as a former Olympian, Enku admitted that the successes of her Dad and Mum do put extra pressure on her.
“Yes, I’m also under pressure because being the daughter of coaches, you need to do well, perform well every time so you don’t let them down as parents and coaches”, she confessed.
When asked if she could surpass her mum’s record at the Olympics, she said: “I want to do better than my mum at the Olympics, I want to come back with a medal, my mum went once, I intend to go to four or five editions.”
With the support of corporate sponsors, Enku went on to finish on the podium at all five championships she competed in, with one GOLD, one Silver, and three Bronze medals.