Former Nigerian and Olympic medalist, Falilat Ogunkoya-Omotayo is Eyeonthesports.com’s star of this edition, as we present her fantastic performance and of course her eye-catching outfit, which earned her ‘The Girl In The Hood’ status, as captured by the bbc during the Nigerian athletics championships held about 13 years ago. Enjoy it.
At the Nigerian athletics Olympic trials, the tannoy called the runners to the tracks in one of the heats of the women’s 400 metres event.
Falilat Ogunkoya, Nigeria’s 1996 Olympics bronze medallist, made a glamorous appearance in a “Hooded Swift Suit”, looking like a Flying Spacewoman.
The spectators roared with delight – it was the first time they had seen a Nigerian athlete wearing the outfit, which covered all of her except the face, fingers and running shoes.
“I was overawed by Falilat’s outfit and, during the race, I was looking at her rather than concentrating on my running,” said one athlete who competed with her.
Ogunkoya, a member of the 4×400 relay team which won silver at the 1996 Olympics, is in Nigeria’s team for the Sydney Olympic Games, her fourth consecutive Olympic Games appearance.
“The outfit is fascinating,” said Ogunkoya, a US-based professional athlete since 1992 and popularly called “queen of the lap”.
She added: “It’s basically a leotard all-round but with netting in some parts of the body like one’s back, the shoulders and back of the thigh.
“This allows some air to get into your body so you can even wear it in hot, humid weather. The outfit has aerodynamic features, so you don’t feel the effect of the wind when running.”
There is an ongoing debate over whether athletes and swimmers should be allowed to wear the Swift Suit (without a hood), to compete at the Sydney Olympics. It is feared that its aerodynamic features allow for faster running and swimming.
Some United States athletes and Australian swimmers have indicated their intention to wear the outfit at Sydney.
But Ogunkoya played down the effect of giving an athlete the added advantage, saying: “Your legs have to make you run first.
“For swimming, you must have the ability to go faster as well. But it definitely gives a colourful sight for spectators when athletes compete with it”.
She said American sportswear manufacturing company Nike asked her to compete with the outfit so as to have a feedback on its effect.
Ogunkoya has a personal sponsorship contract with Nike, but she can only wear it when competing in her professional races and not when representing Nigeria, whose athletics team have a sponsorship contract with Italian manufacturers Fila.
Ogunkoya, a Muslim, said: “By agreeing to compete with this outfit in Nigeria, I’m also making a statement that women Moslems can take part in sports.
“The Islamic religion is against women exposing certain parts of their body but it’s the conservative Muslims who think that way, which I’m not”.
This article, published by bbcsports on Thursday, 10 August, 2000, was written by Eniwoke Ibagere, from Lagos, Nigeria.