Ireland’s 100m success is just another day on the track for Gina
2017-08-04 11:10:18 -
By Austin Anderson

When Gina Akpe-Moses crossed the finish line as the new U20 European champion in the 100 metres on 21 July, she was happy – but that wasn’t the first emotion that come over her.

“I think it was just relief,” says Gina. “It was more like ‘It’s finally done.’ I was happy, obviously. It showed, my emotions just took off. They spoke for themselves.”

The 18-year-old crossed the finish line in Grosseto, Italy and jumped up and down, hugged one fellow competitor, then another. That’s when the tears started to hit. She hugged her teammate, and the experience of being the first woman to win 100m gold for Ireland at European level overcame her.

“It was fantastic and unbelievable,” says her father, Sunday Akpe Odagwe-Moses.

It was as impressive an accomplishment as Ireland has had in athletics in quite some time. But Akpe-Moses was hardly able to soak it in as she was whisked away to the venue’s doping centre for a routine test. Two hours later and after third-place finisher Ingvild Meinseth had finished all her races, Gina finally took to the podium, holding aloft the flag of Ireland – not the country of her birth, nor even where she currently lives, but the one she calls home.

Gina recalls checking her phone later that day to see messages and missed calls of congratulations fill the screen. Word of her success had seen her name trending on the most popular social media platforms. But as often is the case with social media, the comments weren’t all praise. Some racist remarks questioned the Nigerian-born woman’s eligibility to compete for Ireland. “If she is from Ireland, I am from Mars,” one user posted.

Gina’s family moved from Nigeria when she was just three years old. She doesn’t remember life in her land of birth; she grew up in Ireland, which is where she began competing in athletics, until she moved across the Irish Sea, to Birmingham in the UK, for better training opportunities.

“I don’t want to leave my home to go somewhere else,” she says of competing for Ireland on the international stage. “Who else is better to compete with than the one that’s always been there?”

Other, more positive comments pointed to Gina leading the charge of the ‘New Ireland’, a term that in her words “is just kind of, to me, a whole new generation of athletes. I don’t think they are really focusing on the whole immigrant side, I think it includes Ireland as a whole. It’s just saying we are more diverse, leading to new and better things.”

Gina is most definitely a part of this success for Ireland in sport, but she dismisses any notion that she’s responsible for this change. She acknowledges the role she is playing, but says she isn’t concerned with anything other than what’s next for her in her athletics career.

Thoughts creep into her mind about the 2020 Olympics every so often, Gina admits, but she’s focused on qualifying for the World Juniors first and foremost. After that it will be the U-23s, and when the time comes she will set her sights on Tokyo in 2020.

As for right now, Gina says she’s already moved on from her gold medal run last month. “Dwelling on it won’t make me any quicker,” she says, matter-of-factly. “It was a basic day. I did what I had to do.”

She did what she had to do, and for that she was awarded a gold medal that now hangs in the family’s living room for her to look at every day. It sits along with dozens of other medals and trophies Gina has won since she began competing 10 years ago, serving as a reminder of an accomplished past and possibly providing a peek into the future.
TAGS : Gina Akpe-Moses Athletics online Ireland Nigeria Gold medal Euro Championships U 20
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