Athletes like other individuals are often desirous of a great family life, just as they also covet getting to greater heights in their respective careers.
A majority of them live a life that is controlled by global sports calendars, and athletes marrying their coaches, training partners and gradually become a constant in sporting circles.
Some findings even show that the rate of divorce among professional athletes who married non-sports spouses is alarmingly higher than those who pick partners within the sports.
Being a world-famous brand they say can be a blessing or a curse. Ask Tiger Wood, one of the best golfers ever, and he will tell you his failed marriage with fashion model, Elin Nordegren is one out of many examples of two different personalities who had to move on from an unsuccessful marriage.
The reasons for this are not far-fetched. Professional sports is filled with lots of stress and pressure given the fact that athletes spend a majority of their time travelling around the group to keep dates with events.
Spending a lot of time on the road means being away from home and mostly only a spouse in the field will understand the demands.
Another factor has to do with mutual consent as to when to start raising a family. Athletes who come together as a couple set a time frame; when to take a break from their illustrious career to raise their kid after which they can always return to their career, though getting back to peak performance is not a surety.
With constant moving and travelling in the professional athlete life, raising a child could also be problematic if the couples don’t come to a satisfactory agreement. While it may be easier for athletes to agree on when to start raising a family, it doesn’t always work out when he/she is married to a non-athlete.
As part of this year’s Valentine celebration, which held Sunday, PREMIUM TIMES highlights five of Nigeria’s adorable sporting couples.
Deborah Pam and Emmanuel Gyang
The popular saying that a couple that run together stay together best fits this famous Nigerian ‘long-distance’ couple, Gyang and Pam. The duo who specialise in the 5000m and 10,000m and other categories of road races, found each other as far back as when they were in secondary school.
They were both drawn together by their love for running whilst representing their school, Government Secondary School, Gwang in Jos, Plateau State.
Officially married in 2019, Gyan and Pam rank high among top-earning local athletes in Nigeria with their joint successes in high-paying races like the Access Bank Lagos City Marathon, Obudu Mountain Race as well as the Okpekpe 10km race.
Uche Isaac and Franca Idoko
Presently based in Germany, these two former Nigerian athletes were role models for intending couples in Track and Field while they were in the country. Indeed, Uche and Franca found love, leading to marriage, just as they have found fame and fortune on the tracks.
Even before they met on the track, these two love birds shared quite a lot of things in common. Both were born in Zaria and had their primary and secondary education there.
Also, they both 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. Among other feats, Isaac won gold for Nigeria with the 4×100 relay team at the All African Games in 2007 while his wife Franca won bronze at the Beijing Olympics’ 4 x100 female relay race.
Franca admits that it was 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 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.”
Mike Edwards and Peirresha
Having completed his switch of allegiance from the UK and even already competed and won a medal for Nigeria in the High Jump, the former BBNaija housemate is qualified to be on this list.
Mike is married to Peirresha Alexandra Shakes-Drayton who is an Olympian and has represented Great Britain at several athletic competitions.
Perri and Mike dated for several months before they got married in 2018 and the couple welcomed their first baby on August 27, 2020. Mike recently expressed just how much he loved his wife when she celebrated her birthday.
“Happy Wife, Happy Life! Everyday with @itspsd makes me a better husband, a better father, and a better man. Please help me wish my Queen the Happiest Birthday, she deserves the world,” Mike wrote on Instagram
Anthony and Joy
Not even the Coronavirus pandemic that rocked most of 2020 could stop these love birds. In October 2020, the slamming and dunking fraternity also witnessed it’s own version of a marriage between athletes off the same sports after Rivers Hooper’s rim protector, Victor Anthony Koko tied the nuptial knot with his basketball heart-throb Joy Osayanmon.
Wale Olatunji and Agnes Osazuwa
This is another celebrated union in track and field as it pitches one of the country’s finest throwers, Olatunji with Osazuwa who represented Nigeria at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing competing in the 4×100 metres relay.
An interesting fact about Agnes is that she has been in the finals at the National Championship for nine times between 2006-2016. She is also a 2010 African Gold medalist and Continental Cup Bronze medalist.
This union is blessed with a daughter.
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