The Most Famous

ATHLETES from Nigeria

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This page contains a list of the greatest Nigerian Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 6,025 Athletes, 25 of which were born in Nigeria. This makes Nigeria the birth place of the 39th most number of Athletes behind Estonia, and Lithuania.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Nigerian Athletes of all time. This list of famous Nigerian Athletes is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Nigerian Athletes.

Photo of Francis Obikwelu

1. Francis Obikwelu (b. 1978)

With an HPI of 41.07, Francis Obikwelu is the most famous Nigerian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 31 different languages on wikipedia.

Francis Obiorah Obikwelu, GOIH (born 22 November 1978) is a retired Nigerian-born Portuguese sprinter, who specialized in 100 metres and 200 metres. He was the 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the 100 metres. In the same race, he set the European record in the event at 9.86 seconds, which stood for nearly 17 years. At club level, he was a professional athlete for Sporting CP.

Photo of Charity Opara

2. Charity Opara (b. 1972)

With an HPI of 34.45, Charity Opara is the 2nd most famous Nigerian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Charity Opara-Asonze (born 20 May 1972 in Owerri, Imo State) is a former Nigerian track and field athlete who mainly competed in the 400 metres. She was in particular a successful relay runner, winning the silver medal at the 1996 Olympics. Opara was banned between 1992 and 1996 for a positive drug test.

Photo of Sunday Bada

3. Sunday Bada (1969 - 2011)

With an HPI of 32.56, Sunday Bada is the 3rd most famous Nigerian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Sunday Bada (22 June 1969 – 12 December 2011) was a Nigerian sprinter who specialized in the 400 metres event. He won three medals at the World Indoor Championships, including a gold medal in 1997. His personal best time was 44.63 seconds, and with 45.51 seconds indoor he holds the African indoor record. He set a national record in the 4 x 400 metres relay at the 2000 Olympics, where the Nigerian team also won gold medals after the disqualification of the US team who had finished first.

Photo of Chioma Ajunwa

4. Chioma Ajunwa (b. 1970)

With an HPI of 32.25, Chioma Ajunwa is the 4th most famous Nigerian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 28 different languages.

Chioma Ajunwa-Opara, MON, OLY (born 25 December 1970) – also known as Chioma Ajunwa – is a Nigerian former track and field athlete and football player, notable for becoming the first Nigerian to win gold at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, and the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event. A member of the Nigerian Police Force, Ajunwa remains only woman to compete at both the FIFA Women's World Cup as a footballer and the Olympics as a track and field athlete.In December 2017, Ajunwa launched the Chioma Ajunwa-Okpara Foundation to discover new Nigerian stars in sports. The Foundation, in collaboration with the Abia State government, sponsored an Under-16 Athletics Championship for Secondary Schools in March 2018.

Photo of Glory Alozie

5. Glory Alozie (b. 1977)

With an HPI of 32.21, Glory Alozie is the 5th most famous Nigerian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Gloria “Glory” Alozie Oluchi (born 30 December 1977) is a former track and field athlete competing mostly in hurdling. Born in Nigeria, she represented her country of birth and Spain. The world junior second placer from 1996, she went on to have a successful senior career, although she has never won a global international event (placing second on five occasions). While representing Nigeria she became African champion twice, and was at a time the African record and Commonwealth record holder at 100 metres hurdles.On 6 July 2001 she officially became a Spanish citizen. She won the gold medal at the 2002 European Athletics Championships the year after. In the 60 meter hurdles, she won the silver medal first at the World Indoor Championships and in 2003 and again in 2006.

Photo of Gloria Kemasuode

6. Gloria Kemasuode (b. 1979)

With an HPI of 30.81, Gloria Kemasuode is the 6th most famous Nigerian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Gloria E. Kemasuode Ubiebor (born 30 December 1979 in Delta State) is a female track and field sprint athlete, who competes internationally for Nigeria.Kemasuode represented Nigeria at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, competing at the 4 x 100 metres relay together with Agnes Osazuwa, Oludamola Osayomi and Ene Franca Idoko. In their first round heat they placed fourth behind Belgium, Great Britain and Brazil. Their time of 43.43 seconds was the best non-directly qualifying time and the sixth time overall out of sixteen participating nations. With this result they qualified for the final, in which they replaced Osazuwa with Halimat Ismaila. They sprinted to a time of 43.04 seconds, a third place and a bronze medal after Russia and Belgium. In 2016, the Russian team was disqualified and stripped of their gold medal due to doping violations by one of the Russian runners, Yuliya Chermoshanskaya, thereby promoting Nigeria to the silver medal position.Kemasuode failed a drugs test at the Circuito de Corridas e Caminhada in Brazil and was banned from competition for two years over the period of 24 July 2009 – 23 July 2011.

Photo of Uchenna Emedolu

7. Uchenna Emedolu (b. 1976)

With an HPI of 30.23, Uchenna Emedolu is the 7th most famous Nigerian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Uchenna Emedolu (born 17 September 1976, in Adazi-Ani) is a retired Nigerian athlete who specialised in short-distance sprints, particularly the 100 metres and the 200 metres. In 100 metres his personal best time is 9.97 seconds, achieved at the 2003 All-Africa Games where he finished second. This ranks him ninth in Nigeria, behind Olusoji Fasuba, Divine Oduduru, Seun Ogunkoya, Davidson Ezinwa, Olapade Adeniken, Deji Aliu, Raymond Ekevwo and Francis Obikwelu.Emedolu participated in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics. In 2004 he achieved a semi-final place in the individual 100 metres. Together with Olusoji Fasuba, Aaron Egbele and Deji Aliu he won the bronze medal in the 4x100 metres relay. The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing were less successful. In the individual event he did only finish in fourth place in the first rounds heat 10.46 seconds and was eliminated. In the 4x100 metres relay he, together with Onyeabor Ngwogu, Obinna Metu and Chinedu Oriala did not finish the race in the heats due to a mistake.

Photo of Mary Onyali-Omagbemi

8. Mary Onyali-Omagbemi (b. 1968)

With an HPI of 30.07, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi is the 8th most famous Nigerian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Nkemdilim “Mary” Onyali-Omagbemi (née Onyali, born 3 February 1968) is a Nigerian former sprinter, she was a 5x Olympian 1988 - 2004. She had won the bronze medal in the 4 × 100 m relay at the 1992 Olympic Games and in the 200 m at the 1996 Olympic Games. She also won the 1994 Commonwealth Games 100 metres title. Onyali-Omagbemi performed especially well in the All-Africa Games, winning a total of 7 individual medals in the short sprints. She won 100 m in 1991, 1995 and 2003 and took a bronze medal in 1987. Gold medals in 200 m were taken in 1987, 1995 and 2003. Furthermore, the Nigerian 4 × 100 m relay team won all races between 1987 and 2003, at the African Games. Born Mary Onyali, by the time of the 2000 Olympics she was known as Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, having married fellow Nigerian sprinter Victor Omagbemi. Her consecutive Olympic appearances from 1988 to 2004 made her the first Nigerian to compete at five Olympics. This feat was equalled by table tennis players Bose Kaffo and Segun Toriola four years later in Beijing, PR China. Mary Onyali-Omagbemi currently serves as the Special Adviser (Technical) to the Director General of the National Sports Commission in Nigeria, and is a part of the consultation committee for the proposed Sports University of Nigeria, Idumuje-Ugboko. On the 21st of September 2020, she was made one of the ambassadors of the re-branded National Principal's Cup; a grassroots championship tournament that was popular across Nigeria that discovered many talents, some who were former Super Eagles stars.

Photo of Falilat Ogunkoya

9. Falilat Ogunkoya (b. 1968)

With an HPI of 30.05, Falilat Ogunkoya is the 9th most famous Nigerian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 19 different languages.

Falilat Ogunkoya-Osheku (born 5 December 1968 in Ode Lemo, Ogun State, Nigeria) is a Nigerian former track and field athlete who holds the distinction of becoming the first Nigerian to win an individual track and field medal at the Olympic games.Ogunkoya has won a number of national championships, including a gold medal in 1996 in the 400 metres, gold in the 200 metres and 400 m in 1998, and gold again in 1999 and 2001 in the 400 m. At the 1987 All Africa Games in Nairobi she won the silver medal in the 200 m. In 1995 at the All Africa Games in Harare she won the silver in the 400 m, and at the 1999 Games in Johannesburg she won a gold medal in the 400 m. At the 1996 Summer Olympics Ogunkoya won a bronze medal in the 400 m, behind Marie-José Pérec of France and Cathy Freeman of Australia, in a personal best and African record of 49.10, which is currently the twelfth fastest of all time. It marked the first time a Nigerian athlete won a medal in an individual track and field event.

Photo of Jude Monye

10. Jude Monye (b. 1973)

With an HPI of 29.93, Jude Monye is the 10th most famous Nigerian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Jude Monye (born 16 November 1973) is a Nigerian athlete who specializes in the 400 metres. He is of Onicha-Ugbo, Delta State of Nigeria origin. Monye came to the United States to attend Mississippi State University, where he obtained a degree in geology. While attending school, he won the diversity visa lottery and was allowed to become a legal permanent resident of the United States. He became a citizen on 20 February 2004.His personal best is 45.16, set during the 1995 World Championships in Athletics where he reached the semi-final. The same year he won a bronze medal at the All-Africa Games. Monye was a part of the Nigerian team that won the silver medal in the 4 x 400 metres relay at the 2000 Olympics. He also competed in the individual contest, but was knocked out in the heats.

People

Pantheon has 34 people classified as Nigerian athletes born between 1961 and 1998. Of these 34, 33 (97.06%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living Nigerian athletes include Francis Obikwelu, Charity Opara, and Chioma Ajunwa. The most famous deceased Nigerian athletes include Sunday Bada. As of April 2024, 8 new Nigerian athletes have been added to Pantheon including Florence Ekpo-Umoh, Olapade Adeniken, and Innocent Egbunike.

Living Nigerian Athletes

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Deceased Nigerian Athletes

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Newly Added Nigerian Athletes (2024)

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