An eight-year-old Nigerian girl who recently won gymnastics gold in Pretoria, South Africa, says her dream is to represent Nigeria in the Olympics and other gymnastic competitions around the world.
Stephanie attended the African Gymnastics Championship in 2019 and outperformed her peers.
She is the daughter of veteran Nigerian record producer Emeka Onusiriuika, popularly known by his stage name, Mekoyo.
Her mother, Akaka Onusiriuka, at the MKO Abiola Stadium, Abuja, on Tuesday said the girl’s passion for gymnastics started when she was only two years old.
“I noticed she was flipping and I did not know what it was. I was scared that she was going to hurt herself until I realised the sports, gymnastics,” she tells PREMIUM TIMES.
At this realisation, her parents began showing her YouTube videos to use for practice, whilst they searched for a training centre around Abuja.
The only training facility they were aware of was in Lagos, until they were introduced to Tony International Gymnastics in 2018.
Tony International Gymnastics is a private training organisation that operates at the national stadium.
Training in earnest
Stephanie began her training in 2018 and in a matter of months was able to rise to level 6.
According to her mother, she is only in level 6 because of safety measures and lack of sufficient training equipment.
“Stephanie has gone beyond what they teach her, but she is working at a pace so she does not break her legs,” the mother said.
Being a gymnast does not affect Stephanie’s academics or social life.
She attends Bankys International School in the morning and trains in the evening from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. She also has friends in school and her training center.
Since she is still a child and is still developing, she does not have to follow a strict diet. She enjoys eating fruits.
A typical day for her involves her doing chores, eating, and flipping around in the small space her mother created for her.
One major challenge Stephanie faces as a gymnast is that she gets hurt sometimes due to poor infrastructure.
And as much as she gets over her injuries or sprains, the family hopes that the government will be able to help her trainers get more equipment to prevent further injury.
Being a mother to an athlete, although tasking, has been a blessing, Mrs Onusiriuka explains.
Although she has two other children she is always with her daughter because she wants to actively support her.
Her other children do not suffer as they also have joined their big sister and are learning from her.
Amaka encourages other parents who have noticed similar peculiarities in their children to try and encourage the child.
“Give the child enough moral support and love so they can attain greater heights,” she said.
She also urges the government to show support to the sport by providing better facilities and equipment.