A romance born on the tracks

Submitted by 'Guest' on 6 February 2009 - 12:36am

Apart from winning medals and setting new personal best, All Africa Games medalist Uche Isaac and Olympic Games medalist Franca Idoko have another thing in common with Victor Omagbemi and Mary Onyali, Tony Osheku and Falilat Ogunkoya(now divorced), Adewale Olukoju and Fatima Yusuf.


Like these great athletes, Uche and Franca have found love, leading to marriage, just as they have found fame and fortune on the track.

But Uche and Franca's union is more unique. Long before they met on the track they shared many things in common.

Both were born in Zaria and had their primary and secondary education there. Also,they attended Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where they started their courtship in 2002 before they got married last December in the same city.

Both are high profile athletes who have carved a niche for themselves in the world of athletics.

Isaac won gold for Nigeria with the 4x100 relay team at the All African Games in 2007 while his wife Franca won bronze at the Beijing Olympics' 4 x100 female relay race.

Both are graduates. Franca studied English Language while Isaac studied Chemistry.

Franca says of their courtship, "We were friends first. I met him in school just like a normal student."

They both participated in the 2001 NUGA games and went for the World University Games later that year. This served as a springboard to their career in athletics and their affair.

Franca admits that it is easier being married to a colleague because only someone involved in her profession would understand the intricacies and challenges being faced by an athlete.

"When I was in the university, I used to date a guy who was not an athlete" she said. "He didn't understand why I had to go for training all the time because he would want me to spend all the time with him. Eventually we had to part ways."

Isaac said, "You know this business is like military work and we travel all the time. If you don't marry an athlete you could fall into the wrong hands."

Franca adds "No other guy can understand when I have to travel. We understand each other more, we always see ourselves during training, and we are always together."

She says her husband has been very influential in her sports career. As an undergraduate, she almost quit sports altogether because it was affecting her academics negatively.

She said, "I had to stop for two years, 2004 and 2005. I came back in 2006. My husband really encouraged me and helped me not to chicken out".

Franca and Uche have the same coach and belong to the same club, ART Dusseldorf in Germany. They are both sprinters. Such are the advantages that come with being married to co-athlete.

They both believe, however, that athletes must marry co-athletes that are very understanding.

Franca said "Athletes can marry each other as long as there is understanding and friendship".

Isaac's advice to other athletes is "Just don't marry any athlete. You must marry an athlete that understands. I know why I married Franca. I have studied her and know that she is the understanding type".

He says that since they started dating, they have not had a serious quarrel because of their level of understanding.

"You know we dated for six years and that's a long time so we really understand ourselves very well. We are just like brother and sister. Getting married is just supposed to be the continuation of a process. I really appreciate God for her for understanding me so well."

Isaac also admits he doesn't get jealous seeing other guys getting close to his wife, because he says it is part of the job.

He said, "If I get jealous, I will not portray myself to be a sportsman because sportsmen don't get jealous. As an athlete you are exposed to so many things. You just have to be disciplined and control yourself. Being jealous means you are going to die before your time. My wife knows the kind of husband she has so she doesn't get jealous".

However, Franca says it is not easy being married as she now has to take permission from Isaac to do a lot of things.

"It is not easy. If I want to do anything, I have to take permission and say I want to do this, or I want to go there; I have to cook, and clean and take care of him. But I have a very loving and caring husband.

"He's always helping me and he knows how to cook so while I'm cleaning, he may be cooking and call me when food is ready."

They participated in the world indoors for the first time last year and got to the finals, coming sixth and seventh respectively. Speaking about their experience, Franca said, "I was anxious to win so I pushed hard and fell down. I started from the back".

Isaac almost missed the finals because he had cramps and beat the gun the first time.

The couples have their sights set on the World Championships taking place in Berlin later in the year.

Isaac said, "I don't want to go to sleep which is why I train hard every day. I want to fly the Nigerian flag there".

He says that they may be thinking of having children soon.

"Such things should be coming to one's mind because we are not getting younger. Wise athletes know when to forfeit one thing for another. When the time comes, I'll let the world know that Uche Isaac has a bouncing baby boy or girl and that the mother and baby are doing fine," he said.

Culled from NEXT/Yemi Olus