ATHLETICS: Jakpa Sets Sights On Olympics Medal (AUDIO)

Making of Champions (MoC) fast rising 100m and 200m star Jeremiah “Jerry” Jakpa says staying healthy and improving on two key weaknesses will help him make a mark at the African and World Championships coming up later in the year and also at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

The 20-year-old athlete battled with a host of injuries and illnesses in the 2018 season which prevented him from competing at a number of events and when he did compete; his lack of sharpness hampered his performances. Although regained fitness in time to compete at the 2018 National Sports Festival in Abuja, his stop-start season meant his rhythm was off and he could only manage a 4th place finish in the 100m finals in a time of 10.34s.

The 2017 All Nigeria Track and Field Championships bronze medallist in 200m told that the 2019 athletics season is a “make or mar” year for him and acknowledges that he still has “so much work to do” to develop the confidence and consistency to “compete with the big guys” but says he is focused on staying injury free in 2019 and then working with his coach Deji Aliu to ensure that he wins medals at the African and World Championships.

“The first thing is to stay healthy because you can’t run when you are not healthy, so I just want to stay healthy and I’ll take it one step at a time,” he said about his plans for 2019.

“I’ll work with my coach, definitely and I’ll look forward to making the mark for the World Championships first of all and after that work harder enough to go there and make a good account of myself. For me this year I’m definitely looking at a medal from the African Championships and if possible the finals from the World Championships.”

Jakpa who won silver in the 100m at the 2017 AFN/MoC National Junior (U20) Championships was brought into the MoC fold in 2015 and he says his time with the Athletics Club has been immensely rewarding and credits them with helping him significantly improve his running times. Jakpa believes the upward trajectory in his career that the training regimen at MoC has engendered could culminate in him writing his “name in Nigerian history” by running “world standard times” good enough to finish in the medal places at the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.    

“It’s been a really good ride,” Jakpa who combines his athletics career with undergraduate studies in chemical engineering at the University of Port Harcourt said about his time at Track Club Making of Champions.

“I came into Making of Champions with a Personal Best of 10:85s and now I’m running a 10:32s and that’s been just like 2 or 3 years when I started with Making of Champions. So if I could move from a 10:85 to a 10:32, then, definitely before the Olympics next year I should be able to run world standard times that would be able to win medal at the Olympics definitely because everything about Making of Champions has been geared towards the Olympics of 2020 and definitely that’s the goal for me as an athlete to be able to make my mark at the 2020 Olympics and be able to write my name in Nigerian history from then on.”

Combining athletics and school has been a tough ask for the Delta State born athlete who says that he’s had to miss classes because of training on numerous occasions but he counts it as some of the sacrifices necessary to attain his career goals. In order to hit the heights he aspires to though, Jakpa says he must improve on his two key weaknesses – getting out of the starting blocks and his acceleration.

“As an athlete you have to know where you are lacking and for me it’s very visible when you watch my races that I move out slowly out of the blocks so for me I feel that’s one area where I need to attend to and of course my acceleration it could get better and those are the points where I just keep working in training and keep doing my thing and I know very soon it’s all going to come together.”