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The Most Famous

ATHLETES from Nigeria

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This page contains a list of the greatest Nigerian Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 3,059 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 (1978 - )

With an HPI of 41.11, Francis Obikwelu is the most famous Nigerian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 30 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 former European record in the event at 9.86 seconds, which stood for nearly 17 years.

Photo of Jude Monye

2. Jude Monye (1973 - )

With an HPI of 28.89, Jude Monye is the 2nd 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.

Photo of Glory Alozie

3. Glory Alozie (1977 - )

With an HPI of 28.66, Glory Alozie is the 3rd most famous Nigerian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 23 different languages.

Gloria “Glory” Alozie Oluchi (born 30 December 1977 in Amator, Abia State) is a Nigerian-born Spanish track and field athlete competing mostly in hurdling.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 she 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 and she won the gold medal at the 2002 European Athletics Championships the year after.

Photo of Chioma Ajunwa

4. Chioma Ajunwa (1970 - )

With an HPI of 27.66, Chioma Ajunwa is the 4th most famous Nigerian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 27 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 Sunday Bada

5. Sunday Bada (1969 - 2011)

With an HPI of 27.45, Sunday Bada is the 5th 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.

Photo of Deji Aliu

6. Deji Aliu (1975 - )

With an HPI of 27.33, Deji Aliu is the 6th most famous Nigerian Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 15 different languages.

Deji Aliu (born 22 November 1975 in Lagos) is a Nigerian sprinter. He won the 100 metres event at the 2003 All-Africa Games. He also took fourth place in the event at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Aliu formed part of the Nigerian relay team which won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics. Together with Innocent Asonze, Francis Obikwelu and Daniel Effiong . He won a bronze medal in 4 x 100 metres relay at the 1999 World Championships in Athletics, but the team was later disqualified (in August 2005) because Innocent Asonze failed a doping test in June 1999.

Photo of Gloria Kemasuode

7. Gloria Kemasuode (1979 - )

With an HPI of 26.66, Gloria Kemasuode is the 7th most famous Nigerian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 18 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 Blessing Okagbare

8. Blessing Okagbare (1988 - )

With an HPI of 25.01, Blessing Okagbare is the 8th most famous Nigerian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Blessing Oghnewresem Okagbare-Otegheri (born 9 October 1988) is a former Nigerian track and field athlete who specialized in Long jump and sprints. She is an Olympic and World Championships medalist in the long jump, and a world medalist in the 200 meters. She also holds the Women's 100 meters Commonwealth Games record for the fastest time at 10.85 seconds. She is currently serving an 11 year ban for breaching multiple World Athletics anti-doping rules. Her ban expires on 30 July 2032.Her 100 m best of 10.79 made her the African record holder for the event until it was eclipsed by Murielle Ahouré in 2016. On June 17, 2021 Okagbare ran a wind-aided 10.63 100 m. She was the African record holder over the 200m with a time of 22.04 seconds in 2018, thus making her the second-fastest African female athlete over the 200m behind Christine Mboma who ran an African record of 21.78 seconds in 2021. She was the African 100 m and long jump champion in 2010. She has also won medals at the All-Africa Games, IAAF Continental Cup and World Relays. Okagbare was suspended after failing a drugs test on 31 July 2021 during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. On 18 February 2022 it was announced that she had been banned from athletics for a period of 10 years commencing 30 July 2021 for multiple breaches of World Athletics Anti-Doping rules. Following a hearing at the Athletics Integrity Unit that found her to have taken both human growth hormone and EPO over an extended period, and to have failed to co-operate with the investigation, Okagbare was banned for ten years, effectively ending her athletics career in disgrace. On 23 June 2022, the AIU announced that Okagbare's ban had been extended by a year for further anti-doping offences.

Photo of Mary Onyali-Omagbemi

9. Mary Onyali-Omagbemi (1968 - )

With an HPI of 24.95, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi is the 9th most famous Nigerian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 18 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 Charity Opara

10. Charity Opara (1972 - )

With an HPI of 24.46, Charity Opara is the 10th most famous Nigerian Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Charity Opara-Asonze (listen) (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.

Pantheon has 25 people classified as athletes born between 1968 and 1998. Of these 25, 24 (96.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Francis Obikwelu, Jude Monye, and Glory Alozie. The most famous deceased athletes include Sunday Bada. As of April 2022, 10 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including Jude Monye, Deji Aliu, and Charity Opara.

Living Athletes

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Deceased Athletes

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Newly Added Athletes (2022)

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