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Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Ese Brume story’s of Grass to Grace

By Olalekan Okusan,
Ese Brume has established herself as a big stage athlete with outstanding performance on big platforms including the African Championships, African Games, Commonwealth Games, World Championships, and now the Olympic Games, OLALEKAN OKUSAN writes on the grass to grace a story of the 25-year-old  long jumper that delivered Nigeria’s first medal at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

When Ese Brume competed for Delta State at the 18tj National Sports Festival tagged Eko 2012, she competed against some of the already established high jumpers. But despite her tiny frame and inexperience at the time, she upstaged them all to emerge champion. And since announcing her arrival on the nation’s sports scene with that feat in Lagos, Brume has not stopped delivering on the big stage.

The next year, she set a personal best of 6.53 m (21 ft. 5in) to place second nationally, behind champion Blessing Okagbare

Ese Brume

In 2013, she made her debut at the African Junior Athletics Championships in Bambous, Mauritius where she was one of the most successful athletes in the tournament, having won the long jump title, took silver in the triple jump, and was part of Nigeria’s winning 4×100 meters relay team. She also placed fourth individually in the 100 meters.

At the next edition of the championships in Addis Ababa, Brume successfully defended her long jump title. She was even more successful as she added the triple jump and 4 x 100 m relay title, and a bronze medal in the 100 meters to her laurels in Ethiopia.

At the 2014 Warri Relays, Brume set an African junior record of 6.60m in the long jump and improved to 6.68m at the national championships to win her first national senior title.

But at  the 2014 World Junior Championships in Eugene (Oregon) United States, Brume performed poorly and was bottom of the qualifying finishing in overall  33rd  all because she arrived with the Nigerian contingent  just a day before competing,

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She made her debut at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow as Nigeria’s sole entrant for the event. The then 18-year-old Brume excelled in the long jump event with a leap of 6.56m in the final to win the gold medal.

Two years later, Brume made her Olympic Games debut at Rio 2016 and finished fifth with a jump of 6.81m. Again at the 2018 African Championship in Asaba, defended her title to win the long jump event. 2019 was the year Brume showed Africa and the world what she could achieve on the big stage when she claimed the African Games title in Rabat Morocco in August.

And in October of the same year, her leap of 6.91m fetched her the bronze medal which incidentally was the only medal won by Nigeria at the 2019 World Championships in Doha, Qatar. It was the Doha feat that earned her a slot at her second Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

“To win a bronze medal at the world championships in 2019 gave me a lot of confidence that ‘OK, so I can actually compete with the top athletes in the world’,” she said. “I could actually do better still because that wasn’t my best, you know, so it made me believe that I could get better.

“And so far, I have been working with that mindset and it’s helping me, and I can see a lot of improvement,” Brume admitted.

Brume hoped her story would inspire other young girls in Nigeria, where she noted that sports participation among women was still low.

Growing up in Ughelli, in the Delta State, Brume said she was surprised her parents allowed her to take part in sports due to their conservative values. “I want to make young girls believe that all things are possible,” she said. “That they can do exactly or even better than what I’m doing right now.”

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“I’m not any super girl from one unique place,” Brume said. “No, I’m a local girl from Ughelli. So if this local girl can do it, can come this far from nothing to become something, then you also can do it.”

In May, Brume jumped 7.17m at Chile Vista Festival in California to shatter Chioma Ajunwa’s 25-year-old long jump record of 7.12m which became the world leader (best) heading to the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The jump shot Brume to the top of the 2021 list, giving her hopes of a medal in Tokyo 2020 a significant boost.

“It’s a huge achievement for me and my coach. It was a surprise for us at first and, you know, it was something that we didn’t expect to happen at that moment. It just happened,” Brume told Olympics.com. “And we’re still trying to recover from it. And hopefully…I’m able to back this distance, and hopefully, it should get me a medal.”

Brume was discovered and nurtured by one of Nigeria’s long jump coaches, Kayode Yaya.

“I was talking to her about education and I asked what she wanted to be when she grew up,” Yaya recalled his first interactions with Brume.

“She talked about beauty pageants, they had a beauty pageant in a church that week, and she was going to be part of it,” the coach said. “I told her that, you know, you can be in beauty pageants and in many things in life. So I encouraged her to go to school, and I encouraged her to step into training,” Yaya told Olympics.com.

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Prior to the bronze medal feat in Tokyo, Brume acknowledged the pressure.

“Pressure is coming in from different places, from Nigeria, from my team, from Africa as a whole,” Brume said. “I try as much as possible not to let that overwhelm me, take it one step at a time, not to rush. I try not to panic at any point in time and I do not see anyone as a rival.

“It’s something that has helped me, and it has really brought me this far; then the only thing to do is to surpass my personal best. I try to beat myself.”

But in Tokyo, Brume showed her class to end Nigeria’s medal drought after she claimed a bronze medal in the women’s long jump final and win Nigeria’s first medal at the Tokyo Games on Tuesday, August 3, 2021.

Brume came third with a distance of 6.97 (+0.4) meters, while Germany’s Malaika Mihambo clinched gold with 7.00 meters and Brittney Reese of the U.S. silver with 6.97 (+0.1).

“I’m excited and grateful to God. I’m super happy that I was able to make the top three. I’ll say I’m not the best athlete but I’m grateful to God for bringing me this far. I can’t contain my joy no matter the colour of the medal,” Brume said.

“It has been a great season for me right from April when I was injured but I never settled for less no matter the challenges. I keep on pushing and my coach keeps telling me that Ese you can do it. It is not all about the training but the faith I have in God,” she added.

(The Nation)

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