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No slowing down Jorai Oppong-Nketiah (but coaches had to rein in U16 athlete’s 2024 Olympic hopes)

By Keaton Hills

Jorai Oppong-Nketiah of the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club announced her arrival on the national stage by winning the the under-16 women’s sprint double at the Legion National Youth Track and Field Championships on Aug. 13 in Sherbrooke, QC to complete a remarkable rookie season.

Oppong-Nketiah set a new personal-best of 24.65 seconds to win the 200 metres and took the 100 metres by a comfortable .38 margin in 12.07, though she told the Ottawa Sports Pages she feels she could have been faster if not for the headwind.

The Pierre-de-Blois high school student who will soon enter Grade 10 won just about every 100 m race she ran this season, including when she posted a blazing provincial-record time of 11.78 to win the Ontario U16 girls’ title on Aug. 5. Earlier, she won the novice girls’ sprint double at the OFSAA high school provincials in Ottawa to cap her undefeated debut high school season.

Oppong-Nketiah credits her recent success to her new coach with the Lions, Gordon Cavé. She said that they have a close relationship and that Cavé is always checking in on her. Oppong-Nketiah added that she has been applying the advice that Cavé is giving her and that she’s seeing a big impact.

That means she’s reluctantly had to accept her coaches’ guidance to focus on reaching the Olympics in 2028 when she will be 20 years old instead of the 2024 Games. Oppong-Nketiah said she really wanted to represent Canada at next summer’s Paris Olympics, but her coaches have told her that is too soon. The Paris women’s 100 m entry standard time is 11.07.

Oppong-Nketiah said that competing in the Olympics is something that would mean a lot to her since it would make her family proud and it would allow her to achieve a goal that she’s always wanted to achieve.

Oppong-Nketiah has high ambitions away from the track as well. She’d like to study science and become a doctor one day.

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“Being a student-athlete is a lot, I find. It comes with a lot of responsibility. You have to be really organized to be able to be in a sport and be in school,” Oppong-Nketiah highlighted, noting that she manages the challenges by dedicating time to put her full attention into one or the other.

Oppong-Nketiah became the Lions’ first female athlete to win the U16 sprint double at the Legion nationals. On top of her two gold medals, Lions athletes earned another half-dozen trips to the podium at the Canadian youth championships in Sherbrooke.

Zachary Jeggo earned silver medals in the U18 boys’ 400 m with a time of 48.60 and in the 400 m hurdles in 55.33. He also collected a third silver as a member of the U18 boys’ 4×400 m relay team alongside Safwan El Mansari, William Sanders and Eric Zielonka.

Timeo Atonfo also won silver with a 6.89 m leap in the U18 boys’ long jump, while Quinn Coughlin earned a pair of bronze medals in the U18 girls’ 400 m with a time of 57.11 and the 400 m hurdles in 1:02.84.

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