Francis Obiorah Obikwelu
Francis Obiorah Obikwelu, GOIH (born 22 November 1978) is a retired Nigerian-born Portuguese sprinter, who specialized in 100 metres and 200 metres. He obtained Portuguese citizenship in 2001. He is the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 metres. From that race, he also set the European record in the event at 9.86, which has been tied twice by Jimmy Vicaut, but not beaten.
Born in Onitsha, Obikwelu 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 male athlete to win both 100 m and 200 m in the European Championship.
Obikwelu 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 association 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.
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.
- As of 9 September 2008
|50 metres||5.79||Liévin, France||28 February 2004|
|60 metres||6.53||Paris, France||5 March 2011|
|100 metres||9.86||Athens, Greece||22 August 2004|
|200 metres||19.84||Seville, Spain||25 August 1999|
|400 metres||46.29||Unknown||3 June 1998|
- All information from IAAF Profile
Awards and honours
- 2nd 100 m, 2004 Athens, GRE 9.86
- 5th 200 m, 2004 Athens, GRE 20.14
- 2nd 4 x 100 m Relay 1997 Athens, GRE 38.07
- 3rd 200 m 1999 Seville, ESP 20.11
World Indoor Championships
- 3rd 200 m 1997 Paris, FRA 21.10
- 1st 60 m 2011 Paris, FRA 6.53
- 1st 100 m 2002 Munich, GER
- 2nd 200 m 2002 Munich, GER
- 1st 100 m 2006 Goteborg, SWE 9.99
- 1st 200 m 2006 Goteborg, SWE 20.01
- 1st 100 m 2004 Saint-Denis, FRA 10.06
- 1st 200 m 2004 Saint-Denis, FRA 20.12
- 1st 100 m 2001 Berlin, GER 9.98
- 2nd 100 m 2002 Brussels, BEL 10.01
- 3rd 200 m 2004 Zurich, SUI 20.36
- 3rd 200 m 2004 Bergen, NOR 20.46
- 1st 100 m 2008 Madrid. ESP 10.04
- 1st 100 m 2002 Lausanne, SUI 10.09
- 3rd 200 m 2001 Athens, GRE 20.59
- 3rd 200 m 2001 Nice, FRA 20.41
Grand Prix Final
- 3rd 200 m 2001 Melbourne, AUS 20.52
- 5th 100 m 2002 Saint-Denis, FRA 10.03
Super Grand Prix
- 1st 200 m 2004 Madrid, ESP 20.29
- 2nd 100 m 2004 Lausanne, SUI 10.02
- 2nd 200 m 2003 Madrid, ESP 20.59
Additionally, Obikwelu was the 1996 world junior champion over 100 m and 200 m.
- Grand Cross of the Order of Prince Henry