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Francis Obikwelu

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Francis Obikwelu


Francis Obiorah Obikwelu, born 22 November 1978 in Nigeria and a Portuguese citizen since 2001, is a sprint athlete specializing in 100 metres and 200 metres. He holds the record for the fastest time in the 100 m set by a European competitor with a time of 9.86 seconds. He finished second in the 100 m at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, the first medal ever in athletics sprinting events for Portugal. He won 100 m and 200 m in 2006 at the European Championships in Athletics and became the first athlete to win both 100 m and 200 m in the same European Championship since 1978. Kim Gevaert also succeeded in this double victory at the same Championship.

He was voted Waterford Crystal European Male Athlete of the Year for 2006 by the European Athletic Association, in an internet poll open to member federations, media and the general public.

Obikwelu announced his retirement from competitive athletics after failing to qualify for the 100 m finals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but retracted his statement, agreeing to honour the last year of his contract with his track club. Obikwelu won the 100 m gold medal at the 2009 Lusophony Games.



From Football to Athletics


At the age of 14, one of Obikwelu's football coaches in Nigeria noticed him and suggested he try out athletics. After two years he was representing Nigeria in the 1994 African Junior Championships and won the silver medal in the 400 metres.
From Nigeria to Portugal

He based himself in Lisbon, Portugal, as a 16-year-old, after competing at the 1994 World Junior Championships. After being rejected by both Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Sporting Clube de Portugal, he worked for a while as a construction worker in the Algarve. He decided to learn Portuguese, and his teacher put him in contact with Belenenses, where he restarted practising. While living in Portugal, Francis was adopted by a lady who he now proudly refers to as his "mother".

He then made a decision to run for Portugal. The news was broken in July 2000 by Nigerian sprinter Mercy Nku, who like Obikwelu is based in Lisbon. She said Obikwelu took the decision because of neglect by Nigerian sports officials when he was injured while representing Nigeria in Sydney, Australia. "He had to go to Canada to undergo an operation on his knee spending his own money." He became a Portuguese citizen in October 2001.

Both his athletics achievements, his life story and his personality made him a popular figure in his adoptive country, where he is nicknamed Chico, the short form of the Portuguese version of his first name.

He currently competes for Sporting Clube de Portugal.

Athens 2004

In the qualifiers he was one of the most impressive runners, managing two times under ten seconds (beating the Portuguese record). In the final he recovered from a non-medal position in the second half of the race to reach Silver, just one hundredth of a second behind Justin Gatlin and one hundredth ahead of Maurice Greene, managing to beat the European record set by Linford Christie in 1993. He finished fifth in the 200m. - Autobiography of Francis Obikwelu




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