MARILYN OKORO – THE COMEBACK GIRL
Marilyn Okoro helped kickstart a week of incredible, inspiring events for Black History Month. The Bath alumnus talked through the challenges she has faced and ultimately the success she has achieved as an elite athlete. Not only does she have a bronze medal from the Beijing Olympics for her performance in the 4x400m relay, she was also ranked amongst the top 10 times for 800m in the world and placed in multiple international athletics competitions such as the World Championships and the IAAF World Athletics Final.
Her Olympic medal, however, took 10 years to arrive – as it was awarded retroactively following the disqualification of two teams due to doping. Drug abuse on the track is one of the greatest obstacles she has faced as it has cost her sponsorships, money and most of all her confidence. As a perfectionist, driven to succeed and using her negativity to fuel her, she pushed through and kept on running. As her mentor and schoolteacher back when she was just 10 years old told her – “Let your feet do the talking every time”.
One of the most important issues she covered was failure – and how to accept, embrace and learn from it. In 2012 she missed out on a spot in the Olympic team. She was running off pure adrenaline, wasn’t in control or focused – the pressure got to her. This alongside issues with her coach led her to move to the US in 2013 and take on a teaching role alongside her training in Florida. It was living in America that she first felt the impact of racism and discrimination.
Back in Bath she was an active member of ACS, Gospel choir, had a very diverse friendship group and never really felt excluded. Even when she was the only black girl in her boarding-school she never felt that set her aside, she was proud of her Nigerian roots. However, in the states her interracial relationship became a hot topic of conversation, and she was exposed to more closed mentalities around race and colourism in a much more segregated community. In 2017 she returned from the US, ready to run more and train herself for trials for a third Olympic team for Tokyo.
She was unbalanced in her thinking and her lifestyle. She learned to realise when you are on empty and being able to fill back up, after dealing with depression this year. This has only made her more focused and more aware of her body and her limits – she has learned most of all to control the controllables and to learn to live with the rest. Marilyn is ready to make the comeback of all comebacks and we can’t wait to see what she has in store.
Instagram: thegirl_okoro and marilyn_okorospeaks