“All I wanted to do was acting. I never dreamed of being a sportsperson. I wanted to be a superstar in acting, but I was fortunate to find myself in sports.”
Growing up, Lauritta Onye always dreamed of being an actress. Sport had never been a priority; it was the big screen that beckoned.
However, the Nigerian star of the ‘Nollywood’ film industry, who acts under the screen name Laury White, proved that it’s not just on the stage that she excels.
After taking up sport in 2007, Onye, who competes in the F40 class for athletes of short stature, won silver at the 2011 All Africa Games in Mozambique.
“All I wanted to do was acting. I never dreamed of being a sportsperson. I wanted to be a superstar in acting, but I was fortunate to find myself in sports,” said the 35-year-old, whose credits include the Nigerian film ‘Lords of Money’.
In 2015, she set a new shot put F40 world record of 7.59m in Tunisia; seven months later she was at it again, throwing a world record 7.72m in the opening round of the Doha 2015 World Championships to claim her first world title.
Less than a year later, she was on top of the podium once more – this time at the Rio Paralympic Games.
Ready for Dubai
Onye became the first in her class to surpass the eight-metre mark when she threw a massive 8.40m to win Paralympic gold; her acrobatic celebrations, cartwheeling and dancing for joy, were befitting of a charismatic performer.
“I was happy because I proved myself right. I faced a lot of challenges – whereby I’d thought maybe I can’t make it, or maybe I’ll not get it; I’m not a champion. But I went out there and I made it, so I’m very happy with myself, despite challenges,” she added.
Now Onye, who was born in Imo State in the south of Nigeria, is focussed on adding to her trophy cabinet at this year’s Dubai 2019 World Championships – even more so after missing out on London 2017.
“By the special grace of God I will be at the Dubai World Championships,” said Onye. “I’m feeling super. It’s determination and guts that will take me there.
“I didn’t compete [in London]. I was ready, I trained very hard, I was ready to defend my position but I wasn’t taken. This time around I’m going to make it. I want to be the best of all. I want to be the best in the world.”
Determination to keep going
Onye recently competed at the Tunis Grand Prix in Tunisia, where she managed a best of 8.15m in the shot put, with Tunisian duo Raja Jebali, a world bronze medallist, and Rima Abdelli, Paralympic silver medallist and the champion at London 2017, more than 20 centimetres further back.
Poland’s Renata Sliwinska could however pose a major threat to Onye’s world title hopes. The 22-year-old won European gold last year with a new world record of 8.50m, and sits top of the rankings this season after throwing 8.49m in May.
Still, Onye remains unfazed, spurred on by her desire to “be a champion”.
“I have determination in this; power and strength and determination in me. I can see the distance that I throw increase – look at what I threw in 2007 compared to 2011 and 2015. The more I train the more the distance that I throw is growing. I can’t give up, I’m still winning.
“That’s what I want – for me to be the champion. That’s what pushes me, what inspires me. Determination keeps me going.”