Nikki Okwelogu

oly-nigeria-flag

School – Harvard (2017)bp-okwelogu
Country — Nigeria
Hometown — Fresno, Calif.
Event — Shot Put
Event Qualification — Fri., August 12, 9:05 am Eastern
Event Finals — Fri., August 12, 9:00 pm Eastern

Nikki Okwelogu became the face of the Ivy League throwing scene ever since she first stepped foot on the Harvard campus in 2013.  It was a pleasant surprise to see her sweep the conference shot put titles as a rookie in 2014, and then representing Nigeria at three international championships (IAAF World Junior; Commonwealth Games; African Championships) – earning HepsTrack Female Rookie of the Year award in the process.

But breaking the indoor shot put conference record and earning First-Team All-American honors as a sophomore in 2015?  Then we knew she was something special.  She continued her winning ways in the 2015 outdoor season as she won the Outdoor Heps Field MVP award for winning the discus throw title in a new championship meet record and defending her shot put title.

But 2016… it has been the year of great victories for Okwelogu. Early into the indoor season, Okwelogu set a new personal best in the shot put with a distance of 17.66m (57-11.25 ft.). This momentum continued to the outdoor season where she won the NCAA East Regional title in Jacksonville, FL., with a mark of 17.91m (58-9.25 ft.), which stands as a new lifetime best and as an Olympic Games qualifying mark. During the 2016 Indoor and Outdoor NCAA Championships, she collected two All-American statuses in the shot put, she finished third indoors and eighth outdoors.

At the 2016 African Championships in Durban, South Africa, Okwelogu won the discus event with a measured mark of 56.75m (186-2.25 ft.), besting the field by more than three feet. This gold medal joins the silver that she previously won in this event in 2014.  In the shot put, she tossed a 17.07m (56-0 ft.) throw to claim silver, improving from her fourth place finish in 2014.

To date, Okwelogu has demolished Harvard’s indoor all-time performance record by nearly eight feet and shattered a 25-year-old outdoor shot put record by over ten feet. She simply thought her hard work was finally paying off. What she didn’t know was that she would be headed to Rio to represent Nigeria (the birthplace of her parents) at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games— a dream she regarded intangible.

“Being able to say I’m an Olympian for the rest of my life is a crazy thing to think about,” Okwelogu told a reporter at The Fresno Bee when asked about her anticipation for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Her ultimate goal would be to make finals but this young thrower knows this competitive field is filled with the top shot putters in the world. Instead, Okwelogu will take in every part of the Olympic experience and will give nothing but her best, which could lead to another personal record.

– Nell Smith 

photo by Brian Panoff

Additional Resources:

The Fresno Bee: Clovis West track and field alum Nikki Okwelogu headed to Rio Olympics

All-Athletics.com: Nikki Okwelogu Athlete Bio

Harvard Athletics: Nikki Okwelogu Athlete Bio

HepsTrack.com: 2013-14 Rookies of the Year