Image of the Liverpool Cathedral

Anyika Onuora

Oration

Presented by Beth Tweddle

Honourable Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Anyika Onuora for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University.

Anyika is a British sprint track and field athlete, with an impressive record as a Commonwealth, European, World and Olympic medallist.

She was part of the triumphant Women’s 4 x 400m relay team that won bronze at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The win helped Team GB surpass London 2012’s medal tally of 65 and this was the first women’s relay medal in this category since Barcelona in 1992.

Her first major junior international competition was the 2003 European Athletics Junior Championships, where she finished fifth in the 100 m event and won a silver medal with the British 4×100 metres relay team. She competed in her first major senior tournaments in 2006: at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games she reached the semi-finals of the 100 m and won her second silver medal in the 4×100 m relay with the English team.

Five months later at her first European Athletics Championships, she achieved the same feat again, reaching the individual semi-finals and taking another silver medal with the relay team. She also competed at the 2009 Manchester City Games in a 150 metres street race, winning the "B" final of the women's event.

Then in 2014, she helped set the British record in the Women's 4 × 100 m running the 3rd leg, in the Diamond League in Zurich. This broke the British record set 11 days before at the 2014 European Athletics Championships.

Her story is also one of survival and comeback. Ten months before Anyika won an Olympic Bronze in 2016 she was in hospital with life-threatening malaria. She moved from such a serious illness in hospital to the Olympic podium in less than 40 weeks. She has used this experience, not only to drive her ambition forward, but also to raise awareness of malaria.

Having grown up in Liverpool, Anyika is grateful for the ‘huge network of support’ she has always enjoyed in the city. After attending Archbishop Blanch School, she studied Economics at LJMU, graduating in 2008, and was in the very first class of scholars in the new Sports Scholarship programme back in 2004 of which I was a part of.

I was also one of the first LJMU Sports Scholars in 2004 and I know how important it was to me. The Scholarship scheme at LJMU is one that we both gained hugely from and speak very highly of. It gave us the critical support which allowed us to achieve both academically and in our respective sports. I know how hard Anyika has trained to be able to achieve the huge success I have just described and this is something that she should be commended for. Reaching one goal, her degree, is hard enough but to do that whilst striving to achieve a sporting goal and your life long dream is another thing altogether! Anyika's drive and passion is second to none and she continues to aspire to achieve higher goals, yet still finds time to inspire younger athletes who want to follow in her footsteps.

She has returned to the University to talk to sports scholars, sport interns and staff from student sport societies about her experiences as an LJMU Sports Scholar, commenting that “LJMU and the Sports Scholarship Scheme has helped me become the athlete and the person I am today.”

Anyika is not the only talented member of her family; she is the sister of former footballer Iffy Onuora and the academic Emy Onuora, author of the 2015 book Pitch Black, on the experiences of black British footballers. Of proud Nigerian heritage, she regularly visits her late father’s village of Nri.

She hopes to run in a fourth Olympics in 2020 and insists that, in terms of her individual aspirations she says; “I’ll get my moment. It’s the world championships in London this year and I’m definitely motivated. I’m hungry for more because the 400 is a challenge – and I love a challenge.”

For her outstanding achievement in elite sports, it is with great pleasure that I present Anyika Onuora for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.