A 16-year student of Ijapo High School, Akure, Ondo State, Ezekiel Gbenga, recently broke the previous Guinness World Record in rope skipping with 265 skips on one leg in one minute. In this interview with PETER DADA, he explains how he achieved the feat and challenges the sport is facing
How did you come about the sport of rope skipping?
One of my seniors in school introduced the sport to me; our senior perfect. Her name is Esther. Later, I came here ( Akure Township Stadium) in October 2021, before the inter-school skipping competition. It was one of my seniors that informed me that there was a competition going on in the stadium and then I followed him. I was not allowed to participate in more than one event in that competition, but I watched others and picked interest in the game. Since that day, I have started coming for training. We were supposed to go for an international championship in London last year but we could not make it because we had no sponsor.
We came to our coach and told him we wanted to break a record and the coach told us that we could still break it through Guinness World Record. So he applied for it for us.
Where is the coach?
Our coach is Ukandu Chukweze . He is in Akure here
Out of many sports, why did you choose rope skipping?
I chose rope skipping because it is one of the sports that is not common in the whole world and it’s a sport that I like.
You said rope skipping is an uncommon sport. Can you tell us more about it ?
The sport is interesting. There are a lot of benefits one can get from it. It is very cost effective and you don’t need much space to engage in rope skipping. You can do it in your compound, even in your room. All you need is to get your canvas and get your rope and get your business done within your comfort zone.
What are the challenges associated with the sport in Nigeria?
One of the major challenges is funding. In 2022, there was a championship in South Korea, Nigeria could not afford to go because we did not get any funding from the Federal Ministry of Sports. My coach applied to participate virtually and that was very encouraging. Last year, we were to go to the world championship in the United States, but we also lacked sponsorship and we could not go. That’s why we redirected our step towards the Guinness World Record, in order to make a global appearance and for the government to know that there is a need to boost this sport to greater heights. If we can have two or three Guinness World Record holders in Ondo State, that would be a great achievement for the state and Nigeria as a whole. The Guinness World Record involves all countries of the world irrespective of where you come from. Nigeria has sure hope of an Olympic gold medal in the future provided we have support from the government and private companies. We are looking forward to private companies’ partnership to sponsor inter-school competitions.
Have the governments- both federal and state– acknowledged your achievement as a world record holder?
Not really, I have not seen anything from the Federal Government yet but the state Governor ( Mr Rotimi Akeredolu) promised to come and see me, the governor sent the state commissioner for sports to come and meet me in the school, that he ( the governor) will still come and see me.
How did you feel about breaking a world record in the sport?
I felt very much happy when I heard that I’m the new Guinness World Record holder.
After this what next are you aiming at in the sport?
I hope to become one of the best champions in the world in this sport.
How many competitions have you participated in?
I have participated in three competitions: inter-school, the league at the local level here and the Guinness World Record
What has been the reaction of your parents to this sport you are doing?
My parents always feel happy whenever I tell them that I’m going to the stadium because they too like sports. They don’t stop or disturb me. They are also happy that I have my name in the Guinness Book.
How do you manage your schooling with the sport you are doing?
When I’m in school, during the break period when I have nothing to do, I will take my rope and start to do training. I do come to the stadium to train after closing hours and when I get back home in the evening, l will go and read my books.
What other sport do you do apart from skipping?
I don’t really like any other sport apart from rope skipping, even my friends follow me to the stadium, because it’s one of their best sports now, they like skipping rope too.
What benefit has the Guinness Record brought to you?
I have not seen much, I would say it has only made me meet and interact with some people like the commissioner for sports in the state and some media personnel.
Do you see any hope for the sport in the future?
In fact, that is my joy and fulfilment because rope skipping is already becoming a household thing. If you walk on the street now, you see children skipping. They have creatively designed their own rope, so instead of joining some social vices, they focus on skipping within their neighbourhood and that is what is happening now because there are a lot of skills and there are a lot of events in it. I also see young guys building a career from it as we have in other sports like football, tennis, boxing and others. I think this is where government needs to come in. This is where corporate companies need to come in, so that they can have clubs and categories. For instance, we’re running a rope skipping league, whereby all these skippers are in different clubs. They have consistent competitions among themselves and at the end of the competitions they go home with prizes, trophies and medals.
Who is sponsoring the league since you said there are no sponsors for the competitions?
We are the ones running the league ourselves. It is an introductory league. Our coaches are trying to see how the league will work, and when it comes out positively, it won’t be limited to Nigeria alone, it will be international and hopefully the sponsors would come then.
How many of you are into the sport as we speak?
We are many now. In Akure alone, we have over 100 skippers that have registered in the stadium. They do come to train, we also have them in Owo and Okitipupa and also we have them outside the state. The only problem is sponsorship.