WORCESTER – In the ninth grade, Nadia Eke told her basketball coach that one day she would be one of the best high-school triple jumpers in the country. He laughed, but she wasn’t joking.
After highly decorated high school and collegiate athletic careers, the Holy Name graduate is on her way to Athens, Georgia to train for the 2020 Olympics.
Nadia tried out for the track team at Holy Name Central Catholic High School in the spring of her seventh grade year, as a way to spend time after basketball season ended; before then, she hadn’t even known what the triple jump was. But Holy Name needed a triple jumper, Nadia volunteered, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“After my basketball season was done during spring of my 7th grade year at Holy Name my sister suggested that I join her on the track team since I had to stay with her after school until we got picked up,” Eke said. “When it was time to sign up for the meet I put my name down under triple jump because I thought it was the long jump and because all the other jumping events were full.”
Eke used Youtube videos to learn the fundamentals of the triple jump and saw immediate success. She honed her skills during her 6 years at Holy Name, earning three New England Championship titles, a third place finish in the New Balance Junior National Meet, and a full scholarship to compete at Columbia University.
At Columbia, Eke earned nine Ivy League titles, finished third in the 2015 Indoor National Championships, and was named an NCAA All-American four times. She was inducted into the Columbia Athletics 4.0 club and was named Capital One Academic All-American and Ivy League Woman of the year.
Since graduating from Columbia in 2015, Eke has been competing globally for her native Ghana. She won the 2017 African Championship Triple Jump title, a first for the country in that event. Eke also qualified for the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London this past summer.
“For the rest of the world, track and field only exists at the Olympics, but for us track athletes the World Championships is a very big deal. To qualify, athletes must be at least top 30 in the world in their event to make it on this stage. To be top 30 in the world in anything you do is amazing,” Eke said of the accomplishment.
At World Championships, Eke did not do as well as she had hoped, but she garnered enough attention from coaching legend Petros Kyprianou that he invited her to train in Athens, Georgia to prepare her for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Kyprianou, the Head Track and Field Coach at the University of Georgia, specializes in jump, decathlon and heptathlon training.
“[My training method] is based on doing simple things extraordinarily well and learning the small parts of the technique that will pay large dividends down the road,” Kyprianou said in a September 21 email.
Eke is excited to get started. She heads to Georgia on September 30 to begin her training.
“I have an amazing opportunity to finally train with an elite coach. In the past two years since college I have not had the training structure and focus necessary to get me to the next level,” said Eke. “I have been working fulltime, while training 40 hours a week mostly alone.”
Kyprianou’s plan is to throw Eke directly into the fire upon her arrival.
“I am looking forward to working with Nadia and take up on the challenge of getting her to the next level. She will be training alongside the American record holder and 4th place Olympian [Keturah Orji] so it will be a nice duo at training, for certain,” Kyprianou said. “I believe Nadia has an untapped potential and tons of ambition and desire to make it to the next level. It all depends on how she responds to my training.”
Eke plans to find employment while in Georgia to support herself while she trains. Meanwhile, Eke and her agent have started a Go Fund Me campaign to help her get started. The goal is to raise $10,000 for coaching, medical and re-locating costs until she gets settled.
“It will be an interesting challenge which we both accepted and will see where it takes us!” Kyprianou says of his new athlete.
“Most of us spend our lives preparing for our big moments, but until we ourselves can maximize the opportunities we have been given, we will never be able to fully unlock our potential,” Eke said of her commitment.