Her ambition dwarfs her stature. She is a little woman with big dreams. In fact, she has achieved so much in sports, breaking world records and setting new ones at international sports events, including the Rio Olympics 2016. And she celebrated her gold medal in Rio in a manner the world will remember for a long time.
In an exclusive interview in Owerri, the capital of Imo State, Miss Lauritta Onye opined that life is like sports – you don’t win all the time. For instance, while she was breaking world records, a lover broke her heart. However, she enjoyed the relationship while it lasted. Take this from the little woman: “I like tall men, men over five feet. My father was a tall man; I want a man like him.”
An indigene of Amaimo, Ikeduru Local Government Area of Imo State, Onye added that the country has not treated her fairly despite her sacrifices and achievements.
How do you feel winning gold medal at Rio 2016?
I was happy and I am still happy to win gold for Nigeria at the Paralympics in Rio. I am very excited because I know where the feat is taking me to. I know that by winning the gold medal, it will take me higher.
Apart from the gold medal you won in Rio, which other competitions have you participated in and what did you achieve?
I have gone to All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique where I won silver medal in 2011. I was at African championship in Tunis, Tunisia in March 2015 and I won one gold medal and one silver medal. In October of the same year, I won gold at the World championship in Qatar. I got to the peak by winning a new gold at the Olympics and setting record.
I started setting world records in Tunisia. I broke the record at Qatar and set another one. In Rio, I broke the record again. I should be called a world record holder and world record breaker. I participate in shot put and discus. There are other events we do as well. I broke and set the record in shot put.
How did you enter into sports?
What brought me from my village to Lagos was that I wanted to act in films. That was in 2007. Fortunately, a man came to me and told me that people like us do compete internationally in sports. So, I started coming for training. I only trained for two weeks in Lagos before they called us for trial at Ibadan. I made the team. From there, I went for my first outing in Algiers in 2007 but we were not up to five countries that attended the completion. So, we didn’t compete.
What motivates you?
The Olympics was a great motivator. When you participate in the Olympics, you have reached the peak in sports. When you go to the Olympics, you become an Olympian. It was my ambition to be an Olympian and I have been able to actualize that. I’m motivated by challenges.
How much have you benefitted from sports?
Since I have been going to competitions, I have not being rewarded. I have been representing Nigeria everywhere and what they do pay are just allowances. In February 2016, President Buhari rewarded my colleagues that went for the World Championship in Qatar in 2015 but till now I have not received anything. People were rewarded according to the medal won and competition participated. I was at Qatar where champions rubbed shoulders; it is next to the Olympics. No member of the team from Nigeria won a medal except me. We are not in the same team with the power lifters; theirs is an indoor stuff. Mine is a field competition. I was invited to the presidential reception, my name, picture and achievement were in the brochure and I shook hands with President Buhari. Unfortunately, I was not rewarded like others. According to sports officials, they didn’t submit my name early. They said that by the time it got there, Buhari had already signed other people’s reward; that was why my own was not mentioned there. The power lifters were given N600,000 for gold, N400,000 for silver and N300, 000 for bronze. But nothing has been given to me. I am still hopeful though.
What did you get since you came back from Rio?
I have not seen anything except the allowance they paid me like other athletes. Some of the people that went to Rio have been rewarded by their state governors. For instance, Imo State indigenes that went to Rio and won medals were rewarded by Governor Rochas Okorocha. They got a car and N1 million each excluding me.
Why were you excluded from the largesse?
I had not concluded my event when they were leaving Rio. They left with the first batch while I came with the second batch. When they were going, I told the coach, to include my name among Imolites that won gold. The man agreed but he later changed. By the time I came back to Nigeria, somebody from Imo State called me and asked why I was not among the people that Okorocha rewarded. I told the person that I had just returned. So, my name was not on the list of people rewarded by Okorocha.
What effort have you made to bring the attention of the state government to the omission?
I called the Imo commissioner for sports and he told me that I was not part of the people rewarded because I am based in Lagos. He really tried to discourage me from following up the matter. I started calling some people to help me out. At a point, I decided to come over to Imo State to try to see if I could see the governor and the people in the ministry. You know, according to a local parlance, seeing is believing. So, I came to Owerri and met the deputy governor, Prince Eze Madumere, who advised me to present my medal to the governor. And I did. The governor asked me what happened and I briefed him. The governor promised to look into it but till now, nothing has happened.
At what stage did you realize that you were different?
It was when I was about eight years old that I realized that I was not growing and even my younger ones were taller than me. I took it that I was special; I was specially made. To be frank, I was not feeling bad. I was myself, feeling good all the time. If you ask my mother, she will tell that I was a happy child. I was playful and laughing all the time. I am jovial and sociable. I mingle with everybody. I can even be friends with a mad person. I am not angry because I am short; I didn’t cause it. In fact, I do not have any regret. I do give God the glory for creating me in a way that gives me advantage to be an achiever. I look around, I see people who think that they are beautiful or handsome, yet things are difficult for them. So, I don’t feel hurt.
Is there anybody like you in your family?
There is nobody like me in my family. They have traced my paternal and maternal family roots but none like me. It is a mystery to everybody. But my face looks like that of my father. My father has died but my mother is still alive. She is in the village.
How many are you in your family?
We are five children – two girls and three boys. I am the second daughter. My elder sister is married and blessed with three kids – two boys and a girl.
Which school did you attend and how were you relating with your fellow students?
I attended Amaimo Community Girls Secondary School, Ikeduru. While in school, I had a cordial relationship with my fellow students. We used to play and chat.
What is your next ambition? What do you want to do after sports?
I want to grow bigger than I am now, not in terms of size. I want to grow spiritually, mentally, academically and in every sphere of life.
Are you not thinking of getting married and settling down?
God’s time is the best. I know that God created me in his own glory and there is a reason He created me this way. I remember when I finished secondary school, men used to come around me and out of ignorance I told them I was not interested in marriage. I used to tell them that I wanted to be a reverend sister so they should leave me alone. My thought was to be rich and possess all the essential things of life, without boyfriend or husband. Fortunately, I do get revelation and when I have it, I will tell my brother’s wife about it. And she will begin to interpret it. God did not create me not to be fruitful; I’ll bear fruit. Men will be chasing me and disturbing me physically and spiritually and I will be running.
So, when I came to Lagos, I decided to have one boyfriend. Fortunately or unfortunately, he broke my heart. Maybe it was not the will of God. He broke my heart by looking for another girl. He did it twice. He did it the first time and I forgave him. When he did it the second time, I started praying and asking God if he was the one because before I started with him I didn’t pray. I didn’t want a situation whereby I will get married and start talking or thinking about divorce in the future because the Bible frowns at divorce. So, I started praying and getting revelation. Instead of seeing him, I was seeing other people. I said, no wonder the guy was hurting me. It was an opportunity for me to leave him. No need forcing myself, that was why I gave up.
Is he also a special person like you?
No. He is a normal person. He should be over five feet.
Were you sleeping with him? Was he the person who deflowered you?
Yes, I was sleeping with him. He was the person who deflowered me.
Do you enjoy making love?
Do you have a boyfriend now?
I will be lying if I tell you that I don’t have a boyfriend now. But since I have known him he has never slept with me. He is far from me. We only talk on phone. He is busy where he is and I’m busy too. He is still schooling, though he has something doing to assist himself. He is in Uyo, Akwa Ibom but he hails from Imo. The guy who broke my heart is also from Imo.
As a human being, do you sometimes feel like being with a man?
It is when your mind is there that you will feel like being with a man. But if your mind is not there and you are feeding yourself with spiritual words and chatting with friends, I don’t think you will feel much about it. If you watch blue films (porno) for instance, you get aroused. I don’t like watching blue films. I am not a stone or tree; it’s just the grace of God. When I feel it, I hold myself tight.
Did the guy who broke your heart make you pregnant?
What kind of man would you like to marry?
I want a God-fearing man, a man that cares, a man that looks cute, a man that dresses well and has swagger. I don’t like men that wear earrings or funny hairstyles. I need a man that is dark in complexion; I don’t need oyibo. I like tall men, men over five feet. My father was a tall man; I want a man like him. I want a real man, not somebody who will be controlled by his mother or friends. The man should be faithful. My kind of man should be romantic.
What are your hobbies?
I like everything about entertainment. I like acting and dancing, among others. After sports, I’ll go into acting as a career. I’ve acted before.
Is there anything you cannot do on your own?
There is nothing I cannot do. I can wash my clothes and I can cook. I dazzle people with my cooking skills. My mother trained me in such a manner that I must know everything that a woman is supposed to know. I used to go to the bush to fetch firewood but my parents don’t like that. I do carry 50 litres of water on wheelbarrow but my mother will shout at me not to do that kind of work.
What would be your advice to special people like you?
My advice is that they have to aim high because the Bible says declare and it shall come to pass. I have decreed that I will be a great person in society, so shall it be. Whatever God has destined for you must surely come to pass. So, I want to advice them to dream big; let them aim higher and work towards achieving it. I always go for the best. So, my little people should know what they want; they should not give up. God has a purpose for creating them the way they are. The Bible says God’s thought for us is for good. I thank God everyday for the way He created me. They should not feel inferior. I don’t take trash; if you feel that you are beautiful, I’ll tell you that I am more beautiful than you.