Big Brother Naija Pepper Dem gang Runner up, Mike Edward, in an interview with CHARLES OGUNDIYA, said he would be competing in the colour of Rivers State at the ongoing National Sports Festival in Benin, Edo State, after Delta State, the state he competed for in 2018, failed to register him due to the restrictions on the numbers of athletes expected to be registered for each event. Excerpts…
After being out of sport for over two years, how does it feel to compete again?
The fans are here in Benin, what else can someone ask for? I am sure there will be so many reports about me after the festival, but I just want to get into my zone and give my best. My first competition in high jump outdoor since 2019 before Big Brother was at the MoC Grand Prix, it’s been a while but I am glad to be back.
How does it feel to be out for so long like that?
It was amazing, I took it for granted that competition will definitely come always, but now it’s been such a long time, and reality dawned on everyone. It’s been difficult to use the facilities in Europe; now I am home, I just love it here, it’s obvious I belong here in Nigeria, the love and support from everyone, hopefully, it will continue to show in my performance going forward.
This is an Olympic year, do you see yourself qualifying for the Games in Tokyo?
I am taking it bit by bit; the first stop was in Lagos and this is another opportunity for me and I will continue to look out for more opportunities to achieve that. For now, I know I am healthy and will continue to give it my best.
Tell us about the life of a celebrity after going all the way to the final in the Big Brother house?
It just feels incredible. I am excited that I was able to bring a type of buzz to the track and field due to my participation in the house, I make people understand that it’s not always mainstream, I am just happy to be part of it. I have been following things on Instagram and other social media platforms; so, coming to be a member was amazing and I am also grateful that I could return to compete in sport.
Your going to BBNaija house was like an eye-opener for other athletes that they can as well put their hands in other things, what will be your advice to those with other talents apart from track and field?
I will tell them there is nothing guaranteed; if there is any door opening, they should take it. Track and field is not guaranteed, so if you got things to explore, please, explore them as long as it doesn’t change who you are.
You opted to go to the Big Brother house rather than going for the African Games in Morocco, why that choice?
I was actually competing before I got the call from Big Brother and immediately I got that call, I saw it as another door opening at that time and I decided to walk through that door, I didn’t know I would go all the way to the final, I thought I would come out early and still get the opportunity to compete. The idea was to go in there, get evicted early, and try it out in 2020, but imagine looking at what happened in 2020, if I hadn’t taken that opportunity then, I don’t think I would have been in the position to do that again. In life, you never know what you can get. My passion is track and field, the television was an experience and I am grateful that I didn’t lose myself while in the house, I am still here and still competing. The people continue to love me for that. It doesn’t change, you train, you perform and the people continue to love you for it.
With the people around hailing you and trying to relate with a star, how have you been able to fo-cus on your event?
I’m used to it outside of the arena; although it was in Lagos I would be experiencing such a situation in the arena for the first time during the MOC Grand Prix. However, I’m not boasting, the performance was not what I was looking forward to, it was not special but it’s another start for me, all I need to do is to raise my game, I need to also train harder. Sports is a patient game, athletics is not like rolling out the red carpet, and boom you will get the Olympic qualification, I’m going to go deep as much as I can to get it, that’s why I love sports. I’m hoping it’s not going to be the only performance I’m going to get I’m looking forward to competing more in Nigeria and I’m taking it from there.
How did it feel having your wife and son watching you compete at the MoC Grand Prix?
Incredible! It was like a dream come true for me. I have always wanted to have that, my focus was that I will have a similar outing at the 2023 Commonwealth Games which is where I plan to retire and that will be in Birmingham, where my professional career started. I’m looking forward to having a home crowd behind me, it is going to be spectacular for me, to have my kid and my wife on the track. I will say I’m just fortunate and I’m taking advantage of the opportunity God has given to me. I always want to come out there and be professional, the key thing is to always stay focussed, which is very important.
You are at the National Sports Festival to represent Rivers after featuring for Delta at the last Games, what happened?
Nobody thought I was in good shape; nobody wanted me in their team but now with what I’ve done they know what I can do and that’s why I was picked by Rivers State. I don’t really blame them because nobody really wanted to have an old washed-up athlete in their team. I’m glad that I’ll be able to show what I can do, when I get to the festival, I’m going higher.