High jumper, Doreen Amata's ambition is as high as the bar she has to clear. At the 2012 London Olympics, she aims to grab the gold medal in High Jump.
This, she feels, will help erase the memory of her poor outing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
With her season's and personal best of 1.95 metres set at the Mobil Athletics Championship in 2008, in Abuja, Amata had high hopes of getting into the medals range. Her hopes sank as she placed a distant 16th with her jump of 1.90 metres, which fell short of her performance at the Mobil Championship.
In London, venue of the next Olympics in 2012, she says things will be different.
"People are going to see a different Doreen in 2012. My aim is to win the gold medal in high jump. It may sound like a huge boast but it is a realistic target.
"Right now, I have started working towards it. Every week since the Olympics ended in Beijing, I have been training, trying to get myself into proper shape," Doreen said, at the Main bowl of the National Stadium in Surulere, Lagos, where she was training with her coach, Kola Adebayo.
Doreen is 20 years old and, at present, one of the best high jumpers in Africa. Her personal best of 1.95 metres is the national record in Nigeria.
The tall, slim and dark complexioned athlete of Isoko origin in Delta State has nurtured her love for sports from childhood.
"As a child, I had always been fascinated by track and field," she said.
"I liked the athleticism of the athletics but I didn't give much thought to becoming a professional athlete until I saw South Africa's Hestie Cloete perform at the world championship in Canada in 2001. I just fell in love with it. I said to myself that I would want to do this professionally and till date, I look up to her as someone I want to be like professionally and even better," she added.
It was not difficult for her to get into professional athletics as her games master in her in school (Government College, Ojo, Lagos), promptly handed her over to Kola Adebayo, an athletics coach.
Her first taste of full-time athletics came in 2003 with her participation at the Nkoyo Ibori Under-18 Athletics Championship, where her leap of 1.50 metres fetched her eighth position.
But things have changed since then. At the All Africa Games in Algiers in 2007, she clinched the gold medal, but she knows there are greater heights to conquer. "If I have to win gold in 2012, I have to push myself. There is no alternative because it is going to be a strong field in London," she says.
Doreen's triumphs so far have been owing to hard work, focus, discipline and unconditional support from her family. She is the sixth child in a family of seven children (four boys and three girls). Her father is a retired soldier while her mum passed on many years ago.
Her early days as a high jumper were trying times. "There were days I had to walk from my house to the National Stadium and back, for my trainings, but now I look back and I smile because better days are ahead," she said.
To her, athletes, particularly the upcoming ones, face a lot of challenges including: feeding, transportation and lack of adequate facilities to train with.
Concerning the future, Doreen said she would fall back on her degree - she is currently a student at the Lagos State University, Ojo, where she is studying for a degree in Physical & Health Education. She intends to specialise in either Sports Psychology or Physiotherapy.
Off the track, Doreen enjoys singing; she is a member of her church choir. She says she likes to sleep and watch cartoons. On marriage, she says, "Very soon but I will continue jumping."
Right now, Doreen is training to meet a new target. "My immediate task is to scale 2 metres before this year is out," she said. "Later on, the gold at the London Olympics would become my preoccupation. And after that, I'll probably take a shot at the world record. It would be nice to be referred to as a world record holder alongside being described as world champion."
Culled from NEXT