CINCINNATI — Annette Echikunwoke has degrees in mathematics and marketing from University of Cincinnati but is hoping things add up overseas, where she’ll go for the gold.
Echikunwoke is the school’s first black NCAA athlete champion in track and field who is now headed to the Olympics in Tokyo.
“It started out in shotput and discus, when I was in middle school,” Echikunwoke said. “When we had those track and field days, I was always throwing the farthest. I told my track coach at the time I already know what I’m going to do. I don’t need to try different events. I know I want to be a thrower.”
While Echikunwoke knew she wanted to throw, the hammer throw event ended up throwing her for a curve
“To be honest, when I first started out, I was not good,” she said. “It was definitely like my weakest event. I was like, ‘What is going on here? I’m spinning and I’m dizzy.’”
But with practice, determination and the experience picked up at UC, that quickly changed.
“As time progressed I got a lot better,” she said. “It was not until really the end of last year I was like, ‘I’m going to make this my solid one event.’”
Just months later, Echikunwoke is competing with the best in the world. Just being in the game makes her stand out.
“I remember when I won nationals and I remember all of the girls on the stand – most of us, if not all of us – were all Black women. And then when we went to hammer, it was interesting because there were very few Black women doing hammer, so it’s interesting, that kind of juxtaposition,” Echikunwoke said.
She said that’s slowly changing and she hopes to inspire others to shoot for the moon as she competes for Nigeria as an homage to her heritage next week.
“And I hope to be that representation for some Black girl who wants to try it out,” she said.
Echikunwoke leaves for Tokyo on Tuesday. She doesn’t know who she’ll room with just yet but looks forward to staying in the Olympic Village and meeting the best athletes from around the world.