From Vision to Reality — SCU Alumnus’ Journey to the Rio Olympics
Shortly after returning from the Rio Olympics with the Nigerian Olympic Team, SCU Alumnus (DC, 2016), Emeka Aludogbu sat with us to discuss his journey.
It all started with a vision. Inspired by watching his cousin, a professional basketball player, participate in the London Olympic Games in 2012, Emeka Aludogbu became focused on achieving his own dream. “I found myself living vicariously through my cousin’s experience and I said, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to the 2016 Rio Olympics’,” says Aludogbu.
Students, faculty, and staff who have come to know Emeka during his time on campus are very familiar with his drive, persistence, and focus. Before attending SCU’s Los Angeles College of Chiropractic, Emeka set his sights on becoming a professional athlete, yet injuries sustained during his college sports career would ultimately end his career as an athlete. “Everything happens for a reason,” says Emeka.
With his professional sports career cut short, Emeka was encouraged to become a chiropractor by a cousin who is also in the profession. After applying and being accepted to several chiropractic schools, Emeka chose to pursue his Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree at SCU. “I love the philosophy at SCU. I love the emphasis—not only on honing skills but understanding the human body as a totality,” he says.
Emeka soon found himself moving from his hometown, Houston, Texas to Southern California to attend SCU. “I think what was most difficult was leaving my family, particularly my son. But my goal is to be an example for my son, to show him what hard work and sacrifice will bring you,” says Emeka.
With eyes set on achieving his goals, Emeka immersed himself in numerous activities while pursing his degree. “The DC program at SCU is not easy. They’ve designed the program very well and I’m happy to have been a part of it. Trying to stay focused and grounded while working, building a business, networking, and studying was not easy. Ultimately, it came down to how hungry I was to achieve my goals,” says Emeka.
If juggling his many pursuits wasn’t enough, Emeka was still focused on his dream of making it to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Although he would not be attending as an athlete—he knew that his knowledge of techniques learned at SCU, coupled with his background in sports would make him an excellent choice for an Olympics sports medicine team.
Feeling a strong cultural pull to contribute to the Nigerian Olympic team—as both of his parents were born in Nigeria and he is fluent in Nigerian languages—Emeka applied to the African Federation of Nigeria Olympic Association (ANOCA) in spring, 2015. After applying for the program, he followed-up numerous times, but he was not receiving a response.
“I was disappointed, but I was determined to keep going. You’ve got to be hungry to achieve your goals. I was hungry enough that I knew that whatever my vision was I was going to get there. I knew that the time would come. We all lose focus on a vision, but you have to keep reminding yourself why you’re doing this, says Emeka.
As fate would have it, while visiting his parents in Texas over the 2015 winter holiday, Emeka ran into a high school friend who happened to be a Nigerian Olympian. He told her of his failed application attempt and asked if she knew anyone who could help him. “She tested me. In order for her to help me, I had to prove that I was good enough to join the team. Using techniques I learned during my coursework at SCU, I was able to perform stretches, soft tissue work, and relaxation techniques on my friend. After the treatment, she agreed to reach out to her coach on my behalf,” says Aludogbu.
“I remember the day like it was yesterday,” Emeka confesses. On Jan. 17, 2016, he received the following text message from his Olympian friend: “They are going to take you.” Subsequently, she gave Emeka her track and field coach’s contact information and he was promptly invited to offer treatment to athletes at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Indoor Championships.
This turned out to be another test.
After accepting the invitation he realized that his National Board Examinations required for licensure as a chiropractor were the same weekend. Unable to reschedule the exam, Emeka had to decline the offer to attend the IAAF championships.
Instead of giving up, he doubled down. “I had a certainty that this was for me. It was embedded in me no matter what. This is mine,” he exclaimed. With tenacity and focus, he continued contacting any and everyone who he felt might help him realize his dream. Suddenly, in early June 2016, the Nigerian Olympic track and field coach gave him the President of the ANOCA’s telephone number. Aldogbu called several times a day, with no response. “I had given up but something told me to call this number one more time.” This time he reached the President who asked, “Can you get to JFK by 10 a.m.?”
The rest is history.
Emeka booked a last-minute flight to Durbin, South Africa for the African championships. Pleased with his work at the championships the ANOCA President invited him to provide treatment at the Olympic trials. It was there that Aldogbu really wowed athletes and staff with his medical knowledge and cultural understanding of his native Nigeria. “The relationships that you build with patients and athletes is what keeps them coming back and referring others to you.” As a result of making an impression, Aldogbu was not only invited to the Rio Olympics with the Nigerian Olympic team, he was ultimately offered a position as one of the Nigerian Olympic team’s physicians and head chiropractic physician for the track and field team. His persistence and vision would finally pay off—and then some—in the end.
“My advice to students is to never forget your focus. Always stay focused on your vision, and you will eventually arrive at your goal,” says Emeka.