A Nigerian athlete who made it to the just-ended African championships in Saint Pierre, Mauritius is now looking forward to attempting her luck in the United States of America.
Bilikis Yakubu, the 26-year-old graduate of Human Kinetics and Health Education from the University of Lagos says that after her outing outside of Nigeria, she is now looking to the United State Collegiate System, as many of her compatriots have been successful in that space.
“The place to be is the American athletics. I always admire how our athletes are proving their talent right in the US. I long to be there soon,” she says.
There is a long list of Nigerians in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) track and field in the US. The beacons include Alaba Alintola, Udodi Onwuzuruike, Favour Ashe, Favour Ofili, Dubem Awere, Erhire Best, Emmanuel Ineh, Isaac Odugbesan, Ezekiel Nathaniel, Rosemary Chukwuma, Ruth Usoro, Grace Anigbata, Imaobong Nse Uko, Kelechi Mwanaga among others.
Yakubu told Timescape Magazine of her readiness to join this long list of her compatriots in the United States so that she too can become an athlete worth admiration by younger Nigerians.
“I want to become a successful athlete who other athletes can look up to. I always admire my senior colleagues who have been able to make names for themselves and at the same time do the nation proud. Though the environment may be too competitive, I believe that by having the right state of mind, having confidence in my training and myself, and staying focused, I am very much sure that I am mentally ready,” she says.
Despite being an athlete most of her life, Yakubu first made it into games with an international outlook when she was already in her 20s in 2018, as she was one of Nigeria’s representatives during the West Africa University games.
“I was part of Team Nigeria for the West African Games University (WAGU) 2018 hosted by the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria where I came second in the 100m and 200m,” she says.
The Abuja 2018, national sports festival followed the university games months later. At the Abuja national sports festival, Yakubu was in the 100m final. Two years later, she participated in the sports festival at Edo 2020 and won silver in the 4 x 100m relay race.
Yakubu told Timescape Magazine that her exploits at the Nigeria athletics competition got her a call-up to the national camp for her first world athletics sanctioned African tournament held in Mauritius early in June 2022.
The 22nd African Championships in Athletics was held in Saint Pierre, Mauritius from June 8 to 12, at the Cote d’Or National Sports Complex.
“I must confess the Mauritius tournament was a great outing for me. I was in the women’s 100m where I got to the semifinals. I raced in the qualifying round of the 4 x 100m. Team Nigeria went on to win the race and the gold medal,” she says.
The young athlete adds that the African Championship was a wonderful experience “because it was my first time in a continental outing for Nigeria.”
The athlete also revealed the challenge of combining athletics with her education at the University of Lagos. She said though it is not easy, she has been able to weather the storm.
“My classes used to clash with my training time, and most time I used to get to the classes late. On several occasions, I did not even go to classes because I would have been too tired from training, and there were days I use to sleep in the lecture room. There was also a time that I risked my examination just for a competition,” she says.
One thing that is going on good for Yakubu is the support she is receiving from her parents who pray and support her athletics career financially.
“They would come to watch me when I have any competition,” she says.