Encomiums poured down like confetti on the heads of medallists returning home from the Sydney Olympics, but in the general euphoria, the extraordinary travails of one small woman from Nigeria were lost in the hullabaloo and thus not given her deserved place in our hearts.
Gloria Alozie, the sprinter, in winning silver in the women's 100m hurdles, perhaps did more for the Olympic spirit than all the athletes from the 119 countries that participated in Sydney.
As she stood on the starting line (all 5ft lin of her), looking down the 10 hurdles beyond which lay glory, the body of her fiance, Hyginus Anugo, 22, was waiting for her in a refrigerator somewhere in a hospital mortuary in Sydney. Anugo was killed by a car one week before the Games opened on 15 September. Gloria, 27, was in Japan at the time for a grand prix meet. They were planning to marry early next year.
They had arrived in Sydney together on 5 September from their base in Valencia, Spain, where they had moved three years ago to train for the Olympics. Anugo was himself an international athlete who had missed the final selection for Nigeria's 4x400m relay team. He yet travelled with Gloria to join the national squad in Adelaide (Nigeria's pre-Games base) from where he went to Sydney to arrange private accommodation for himself and his fiancee who had a busy sprint schedule ahead of her in a few days time.
Two days after arriving in Australia, Gloria left for Japan to participate in the pre-Games meet in Yokohama. While there, she received a message that her fiance had been injured in a car accident. In fact, the Nigerian team managers in Sydney were deliberately being economical with the truth. Anugo was dead, killed by a car. But they wanted Gloria to be among friends and team-mates to console her when the bad news was delivered.
Anugo's accident happened on the night of 7 September. He had left the Southern Cross College in Sydney where they were based to buy a "take-away" snack at a nearby store. He ran into a busy road and was killed instantly by an oncoming car.
Some reporters have speculated that Anugo "committed suicide" by stepping in front of the car "because he couldn't bear seeing his fiancee outshine him by winning the gold in her race while he could not even make the 4x400m team." But nobody has offered any concrete evidence to back up this speculation
Gloria was given the tragic news at the Kingsford Smith Airport in Sydney when she returned from Japan. You could...