Friday, February 10, 2012


On the morning of the final of the 2012 African K1 Canoe Slalom Championships in Bethlehem, South Africa, he was listening to Femi Kuti’s “Wonder, Wonder, Wonder" playing in his car. And like that, 23-year-old British-born Nigerian Jonathan (Johny) Akinyemi went on become a continental wonder as he swept away competition from Beijing 2008 bronze medallist French-born Togolese Benjamin Boukpeti and was crowned the African Slalom Men’s K1 Champion, the first Nigerian to achieve that feat. Most importantly, his victory meant that he qualified to represent the country at the London 2012 Olympic Games, also the first Nigerian to qualify to represent the country at any Olympics canoe slalom competition.

However, Akinyemi’s Olympic dream was 12 years in the making. At the age of 11, while sitting in his parents' front room in North-East England, watching the final Olympic run of British canoeist Paul Ratcliffe (who went on to win silver) at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, his personal Olympic torch was ignited. He started canoeing at the age of 12. In 2006, Akinyemi emerged junior British national Champion. However, the course of his Olympic dream changed when he gave up his place at the top of the British canoe rankings to compete for Nigeria, his father's home country, after a first visit to Nigeria in 2007. That made his K1 acheivement all the more special.

An unassuming fellow with a infectious determination to excel in his chosen endeavour; Akinyemi, who already has a degree in Theology but is also studying to be an accountant at the London School of Business and Finance, noted that his strong belief in God has also helped him reach this pivotal stage of his career. In this exclusive interview, and the first of its kind with any Nigerian media outift (also his first after that historic race in South Africa), with Arukaino Umukoro, Akinyemi who has a Nigerian father and British mother talks about his life, sport, historic feat in South Africa, goals for London 2012 and the future of canoe slalom as a sport in Nigeria.

Proud of his Nigerian heritage, the first question Akinyemi asked me was about the fuel subsidy and how it was affecting Nigerians “I keep an eye on all news and what’s happening from Nigeria," he said.

Watch out for the interview next week in TELL...
Please stay tuned here, also :)

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