Nigerian Athlete, Mary Onyali, who won the country’s first gold medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, has spoken on what her marriage would have been like had it been she didn’t marry a sportsman.
Here are excerpts from the interview with Mary Onyali below.
As of the time you became a sportswoman, most parents would not willingly allow their daughters to engage in such. How did your parents react to your career choice?
Sport was popular when I was in high school but it was not something parents allowed their children to do as a career because they did not understand that one could make a career out of it. They did not understand what it took to be a sportsperson and that you could make a living from it. My perseverance helped me to persist and insist that I wanted to be a sportswoman. I was raised by a single mother. I had to convince my mother and uncles beyond reasonable doubts that I wanted to be a sportswoman. I was told by most of my Physical Education teachers, who were from Ghana that I could make a career and life out of it. That was what made me take it more seriously because I knew that being the first child out of four children; my mother would not have been able to fund our education. When I heard that I could be given free education because of my participation in sport, I jumped at the offer. My mother did not understand what I was doing but I thank God that my persistence paid off and now she is proud of me.
Do you think that if you had not married an athlete, you would have got to the top of your career?
I believe so and my marriage is a plus to my career. I believed that if I had got married to someone who was not sport-inclined, a typical African who would want you to have a regular job or stay at home as a mother; it would have been a disaster. There probably would not have been a marriage at the end of the day because during the courtship, I would have sensed that he was not going my direction and something would have ended the relationship.