“This is the time for me to shine, this is the time for me to be the World Champion, for people to know me…” a tearful Cynthia Ogunsemilore couldn’t control her emotions after qualifying for the Paris Olympic Games in the women’s 60kg Boxing event.
Cynthia Ogunsemilore won the GOLD medal in women’s 60kg, recording a 5-0 unanimous decision win over Algeria’s Khelif Hadjila.
A product of the monthly Lagos Boxing Hall of Fame (LBHF) title, Cynthia made the podium at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham with the bronze medal in the women’s lightweight.
Her Chance meeting that Introduced her to Boxing
A chance encounter with her dad’s friend at the age of 12 set Cynthia on the path to live a dream of becoming an Olympic champion.
Initially her dad was against the idea but his friend who is a boxing coach decided to make her go through a try out and from that point she fell in love with the sport.
“I started when I was 12 years old. Though it was not in my plans to become a boxer but it was my coach because my coach and my dad were friends from youth, so my coach came to my house and told my dad, give me this girl to train and my dad was like, she is too small and he doesn’t want.
“My coach was like the following day he will send someone to take me to the training ground so after checking their training, if I can do it or not, I can tell him. after I went to the training ground, I saw so many girls training and I was now like it is what I can do. I was still small then, so I told my coach I can do it, so he asked me am I very sure and i said yes, I can do it. So since then, I started training.”
Before Cynthia’s feat Nigerian boxing has been in the doldrums, suffering neglect despite the country’s rich heritage in boxing.
History of Nigerian Boxing At the Olympics
Nigeria’s first Olympic medal was in boxing through Nojeem Mayegun, a bronze at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Years after, the production line kept giving the country Olympic medalists including the current national team coach, Peter Koyengwachie.
Meanwhile, three Nigerian boxers joined Cynthia to punch their tickets to next year’s Olympic Games, winning their respective categories at the African Olympic Boxing qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal.
While in the men’s 57kg, Joshua Omole Dolapo was quite superior to his Ethiopian opponent, Leta Fikremariyam Yadesa, also winning his own bout by a unanimous decision (5-0).
The qualifications mean Joshua Omole Dolapo secures the first African spot in men’s boxing at Paris 2024.
Olaore Adams joined his compatriots on the qualification train, beating Algeria’s Houmri Mohamed in the men’s 92kg. Adams won the fight with a split win.
Nigeria have now gone from missing the Tokyo Olympics three years ago, to having three qualifying for Paris.