Nikki Okwelogu, the former Clovis West High track and field standout selected to Nigeria’s Olympic team in the shot put, is being asked to pay her own way to Rio.
And she only has a few days to come up with the $7,000 it will take at this late notice for a round-trip flight. So she has set up an account at the crowdfunding website GoFundMe to assist with her expenses. Okwelogu had raised nearly $2,200 by early Saturday night.
Okwelogu and other American athletes representing Nigeria in the Olympics received an email Thursday from the Nigerian Sports Ministry inquiring into their “possibility of purchasing” an economy flight ticket to Rio.
Nigeria, which faces growing inflation and a shrinking economy, was recently said to be “technically in a recession” by its finance minister.
Never miss a local story.
$7,000 Amount former Clovis West High standout Nikki Okwelogu needs after being informed she will have to pay for her flight to Rio to represent Nigeria in the Summer Olympics. She has a GoFundMe account.
The email, sent from Nigerian Athletics Federation Secretary General Bamiduro Olumide, also said the athletes would be reimbursed depending on “whether it is in line with the approved budget.”
A follow-up email sent Friday also said it was “not intended to create an impression that athletes should pay for their ticket to Rio, and that Nigeria can not afford to pay for your way to Brazil.” Several other American athletes set to compete for Nigeria have taken to social media and crowd-sourced platforms to solicit the funds for them to fly to Brazil.
Okwelogu – initially instructed by the Nigerian Sports Ministry to arrive Sunday in Rio – has not been provided a flight ticket or money to pay for one.
The Olympics begin with Opening Ceremonies on Aug. 5 and run through Aug. 21, with the shot put competition set for Aug. 12. Personal throws coach Mike Guidry of Fresno said that ideally Okwelogu would arrive in Rio at least a week ahead to get acclimated to time zone and climate differences as well as the training facilities and living arrangements.
Okwelogu and Guidry are still waiting for promised reimbursement – to the tune of $4,000 – from the Nigerian Sports Ministry for their trip to Durban, South Africa, in June to compete in the African Championships.
Okwelogu’s parents – Agnes Akabogu and Bernard Okwelogu – were both born in Nigeria. Okwelogu, who was the discus champion at the CIF State meet while a senior at Clovis West, met the Olympic qualifying standard with a toss of 17.91 meters (58 feet, 9¼ inches) at the NCAA East Regional on May 11 for Harvard.