Happy New Year!

Greetings to all at the start of a New Year!  It has been such a long time since I’ve posted anything so why not start fresh in a new year.  With the Olympics several months behind me, and I am settled back into my life before the madness many are asking what’s next?  For those less knowledgeable of Athletics (Track & Field) on a professional level, fortunately for me, the Olympics are not the only large world stage competition.  Though never really thinking much about what would happen beyond the Olympics being that it was the pinnacle of my childhood dream, I re-evaluated and decided that the saga must continue…

In addition to the plethora of track competitions in various professional “circuits” in Canada, the USA, Brazil, the Caribbean, Asia and Euro, there are Outdoor World Championships in August 2013, Indoor World Championships (2014), Commonwealth Games (2014), Outdoor World Championships (2015), and Indoor World Championships (2016) before we even begin to broach the topic of the Summer Olympic Games in Rio 2016…

Given we all love to start the New Year with loads of positivity, cliche New Years resolutions and renewed sense of self, I figure it would be only fitting to share my “enlightened” thoughts on the New Year.  It will be hard to top 2012’s Olympic experience but the beauty of reaching your goals is the opportunity to make even bigger and better ones.  My charge for the new year rests in consistency.

People talk about life not being a sprint but a marathon.  Step, step, step, for what seems like forever until we make it to the finish line.  That couldn’t be more true.  Sometimes it takes forever to get to that finish line but those who make it keep stepping. Forward.  Many times last season making the team seemed so far away.  There was no comprehensible way to reason within myself that I had that spot until I in fact got it.  But I kept stepping.  Forward.  Around this time last year I pulled my hamstring.  Rehab was the worst thing ever, but I kept stepping. Forward.  This year I will focus more on the hurdles and that has already proven to be it’s own challenge but I will fight to stay consistent and keep stepping.  Forward.

“Therefore, my beloved bretheren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

Be Merry,



O2-Cam: Village Life. London. Hospitality.

Tower Bridge!

The float tank I floated in.

Oakley Safehouse and my gifts!

We each had to do a mini photo shoot with the Beats headphones. In my best Tyra Banks Next Top Model Voice “this was the best shot”

Our goodies from Beats by Dre

Faith. Focus. Fun.

It’s been a little over a week since the opening ceremony.  Already 4 days into Athletics competition, the excitement and nervousness builds as I await my turn to go Friday evening. My roommate is already through with her competition, competing during the first 2 days of Athletics competition and I can feel her relief while my anticipation increases.  This is a very crucial point in my training as it is imperative that I stay healthy physically, mentally and spiritually while I sharpen up for the big race.  It is so easy to be swayed by those already done with competition to enjoy the late nights and multiple trips to McDonald’s for McFlurrys, Quarter Pounders and French Fries but I must stay committed to the plan.

Isaiah 1:19 “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land”  

Because it is so easy to fall off course I found this verse fitting. To me, being willing and obedient to fully commit to the purpose of why I am here is the only important thing in my last days here.  That means in these last few workouts going 110% is the only option. Not missing treatment sessions, being disciplined in my eating and getting my rest.  Taking care of the all the necessary elements of training and staying focused on who brought me here, my creator, my Lord, my God the word promises that I will eat of the good land.  Some would argue that the 24 hr McDonald’s is eating of the good land but I am confident there is something greater out there for me.

Staying focused will be the key to combat the fear and paralyzing nerves of competing in front of an 80,000 person crowd.  To help prepare for this, this week I’ve honed in on mental preparation through visualization. The mind is such a powerful tool and understanding how to unlock its power can be enough to create an advantage vs. your competitors.  This of course isn’t singular to athletics or athletic competitions but in all facets of life.  Some use the term “meditation” interchangeably with visualization and I believe the exercise produces similar results.  Even Joshua 1:8 talks about the link between meditation and prosperity/having good success so I can’t be that far off right?

I was fortunate to learn about a place in London called Floatworks where I carried out my visualization sessions.  Floating (yes I said floating)  in a tank of water in complete silence and darkness for 1 hour, I visualized my race over and over. It was pretty difficult the first time, one because it was foreign to actually float in water (heavily salnated) and two I had a million and one things on my mind.  I would continually  start off the race in my mind and before I got to 200 I was thinking about any and everything.  Finally able to get through a few races fully in my mind I was at ease that though I have yet to step on the track I have seen the race in my mind already and there is nothing to fear.

When I am not floating around or training, there are a lot of fun things happening here in the village.  With a few excursions into and around London my teammates and I have been taking in some of London’s best sites.  Tower bridge, London Bridge, Knights Bridge, Soho, Central London, and Covent Garden to name a few.  In addition to playing the tourist, we have been blessed to visit a few of the hospitality venues by some of the Olympic Sponsors: Oakley, Beats by Dre, Red Bull and Mizuno.  These trips are always fun because you come back with cool free stuff!  It’s such a great way to get product out there into the right hands and make a few athletes happy in the process.

Before I sign off for the night I so want to take a moment to thank you all for your support. For the endless Facebook posts, emails, prayers and bragging you have been doing on my behalf. It’s amazing how friends, family, colleagues and strangers have come together to support me in whatever capacity they can.  I can never repay you for the encouragement it brings me but know that  your efforts are not in vain.  When I step out there on Friday I can only hope that my performance on the track can mirror the positive energy you are pouring into my life right now.  Thank you all!

Let the Games Begin!

It is officially two days into the Olympic games. With the opening ceremony just two days behind us you can feel the competitive spirit brewing.  Game faces are on and we are all ready to experience the greatness of the games.  Most of you all had the opportunity of watching the opening ceremony but I want to give you the behind the scenes look into the ceremony from my eyes.

That day, Friday, July 27th the village started to shut down early in preparation for the ceremony.  The practice tracks closed between 12pm and 1pm creating a mass practice session for all countries trying to get their tune up sessions in before shut down.  After a quick track session and massage it was time to relax and prep for the ceremony. We were not told much but knew that showtime was between 9pm and 10pm.  8pm the girls started to scramble; hair, makeup, fixing outfits, tying head ties and choosing shoes.  I had the smallest piece of the “papery fabric” material used for our head tie and boy was it a process to style it in a reasonable fashion for the walk.  Being duly warned by past olympians about the excessive walking and standing, comfortable shoes were a must.  After all, I am here to compete and though the opening ceremony is an event to remember, we wouldn’t want to jeopardize performance with avoidable irritations.  With that, I laced up my trainers, hoping the length of my skirt would cover up my fashion faux pas.

Suited up in our traditional green and white dress it was time to go down, meet up with the rest of Team Nigeria and take our proper place in line. Snap! Flash! Wait, get my camera too! You better facebook this after! was all you heard for the following 30 minutes or so.  Excited to be in unison for once, it was picture time with our fellow countrymen and women.  Chants of Ni-ge-ri-a! Ni-ge-ri-a! filled the air outside of the Nigerian NOC office while we waited our turn to march.

We started the athlete march towards the stadium.  The feeling was electric.  Lined around us were tons of fans, supporters, kids chanting Nigeria, screaming for our autographs and begging for our flags and pictures.  Truly a humbling experience to see the joy on the faces of children excited to have my signature. In my eyes I was just a normal girl chasing a childhood dream but to them I was someone special, an olympian.

Finally at the mouth of the stadium, lights, camera, action! In the front row, third from the left I marched into the stadium.  Illuminated with blue flourescent lights we danced in, waving our flags, looking for the cameras and me looking at my shoe laces which of course had loosened. Walking counterclockwise around the stadium we made our way on to the stage.  While watching the other countries march into the stadium on the jumbotrons my teammate Naomi and I were on a mission to snap as many photos and exchange pins with all the countries we could.  However, we weren’t the only ones with this mission. Every where we turned, “can we take a picture with you?” It had to be the head tie I thought.  We were turning heads…literally.

In came the USA. Being born and raised in the US this was a special moment for me.  Many of my college friends were sprinkled throughout the American team and off course the big stars, NBA stars.  As you expected they were bombarded from every direction with requests for pictures and I too had to get involved. 🙂 Once all the athletes were in we too watched the rest of the ceremony, the boat ride with the torch carried in by David Beckham and the final lighting of the torch. Overwhemled with joy and excitement the fireworks pushed me over the top. The ceremony was over but the feeling lived on.

We made the frigid trek back in a mass exodus to the dining hall. As you can expect the 24 hour McDonald’s was PACKED but I managed to get a McFlurry and some fries. Not the best meal at 2am in the morning, but it was my last day of indulgence before the final push into competition. The buzz of all the athletes chatting and eating was electric. If you lacking the adrenaline rush the games brought, at that moment you had it. Once back at the room we all uploaded our photos and compared who we were able to steal away for a photo-op.

Waiting until 3:30am when I was finally spotted on tv by friends and family back home in the US I was on an emotional high. The time has come, and we are ready.  Ready to take on the world and display our talents on the world stage.

Finally laying my head down at 5am it hit me. I, Idara Otu am an Olympian.

Let the games begin!

The African Tour Continues…

With Olympic Trials out the way next stop was African Championships in the Republic of Benin the following week.  Benin, Nigeria’s neighboring country was set to host the games from June 27-July 1. We left Calabar and flew to Lagos the day following trials; boy was that an experience. With about 80 travelers and athletes who didn’t exactly back light it was a mad house at the airport. But after what seemed like forever we were aboard the aircraft and readytoff take off. We were back in Lagos for a couple days before heading to Benin Republic by bus.

Fortunately this time we had the luxury of traveling via coach bus and not a caravan of vans we figuresmooth ooh 2 hours trip would have us there in no time. To the contrary, 12 hours later we finally arrive at our hotel. We allrelearned that crossing the border with 80 individuals wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. However lucky for me there were folks selling goods outside the bus so I was able to buy some nuts and a passport case. I even negotiated the prices! That’s why I’m Nigerian, negotiation is in our blood.

First night we were in a random hotel in Cotonou as there was some mix up with our accommodations but the next morning we were in our new hotel, The Benin Marina, ie. paradise. I will post some photos in a few, but this hotel was like nothing I’ve seen in my entire 3 weeks in Africa. Palm trees, the beach, beautiful pool, you would have thought we were at a resort in the Bahamas.

The athletes were all joyous to be in such a gorgeous hotel and our spirits immediately lifted. After many days of travel, constant hotel changes and questionable food, the Marina was heaven to us. It definitely showed in our performances as Nigeria won the African Championships! It was a great experience, and pretty neat to see all the African nations represented there. Outside of Nigeria winning, it was great to the the South African “Blade Runner” double amputee, Oscar Pistorius run and their relay team qualify for the games.

Though we had an awesome hotel, the rain in Benin was on an entire different level. When it rained, it poured and after 7 days of rain we were ready to go! Back to Lagos we went on our bus.

Next stop London…

The Big Stage

It had been quite a while from my last post but what seems like a million travel hours later I will do my best to bring you up to speed. The last your heard from me I was preparing for the final round of the 400m of Nigeria’s Olympic trials, this would be the determining factor if one day I’d be called an olympian, head to London and extend my time off of work ;-). Given most already know I will hold the dramatics, but yes I made it through. With a 5th place finish and time of 52.45 I clinched a spot on Nigeria’s 4×400 meter relay.

To give you a little glimpse of what the race was like, I went out HARD and fast and held on for dear life. It wasn’t the most tactical race I’ve had by any stretch but it got the job done. Being in lane 7 with only competitor in front of me it wascrucial to have a strong start to be in the mix come 250 meters when you start to see the rest of the field. Over joyed but exhausted I was quickly ushered into the doping room for testing. Thought it took 3 bottles of water, a fanta and a wasted effort the doping officials had my sample and I was on my way. The day wasn’t done as we “Team Delta” still had a 4×400 relay to run. We were crown victors and handed shiny gold medals by the lovely flower girls. The day was complete and I, Idara Otu was on my way to being an Olympian.

The calls went out to all the numbers I could remember on my little Nokia phone. “I made it! I made it” I shared with anyone who would listen. I was feeling good, feeling great. All I could think about was Psalm 118:1 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; because his mercy endureth forever.

I’ve come so far, worked so hard, dripped a lot of sweat but increase comes from above. Riding back to the hotel, over all the horns from the motor bikes and decade old cars. Past the cows and goats on the side walk. Over the high life African music blasting through the stereos I was overwhelmed with joy. The culmination of a long season but the beginning of the Big Stage; the grand performance. The reason for all the ice baths, vitamins, doctor visits, deep tissue “massages” have come to light. The curtains have rolled back and I’m moving into my space.

O2-Cam: From Warri to Calabar

The “market” Naija style…in Warri if you have something to sell you are out there selling it. Nigerians are salespeople from the womb.

Nollywood Studios next to our resort in Calabar, Cross River State

Sometimes cows and goats have the right of way…In Warri, Delta on our way back from the track.

Nigeria is a country full of hope, churches are probably the most prominent category of establishments in this place…en route to Calabar, Cross River State.

On one of our pit stops en route to Calabar this young gentleman was selling fish.