If you're like me, you watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics and loved every minute of it! However, one of the many things that caught my eye was the flag bearer for Sierra Leone-- with her fierce side puff and bright smile, how could you not notice her?
Ola Sesay shares her story with Onyx Rose...
OR: Tell us a little bit about the woman behind the Olympian.
Ola: Recently married (June 16th) to Peter Abbott. Soft spoken, easy-going, genuine, and blessed beyond words. I am also a physical therapist in Houston, TX.
OR: How did you develop an interest in long jumping?
Ola: I started competing in track and field from the age of 12, and I just had a lot of natural talent, but I particularly did well in the long jump. I continued doing the long jump and other events (hurdles, triple jump, relays) through high school and earned a full athletic scholarship for college. Even after college, I still had a desire to compete and to go to the Olympics, and the long jump was my best chance at doing that.
OR: What were the first thoughts that came to your mind after you qualified for the 2012 London Olympics?
Ola: Well, honestly, the reality and excitement of the Olympics did not hit me until I actually got there. It was more just a little anxiety until then that everything would go smoothly and I would make it there without any hiccups or injuries.
OR: Describe the emotions you felt as the flag bearer for Sierra Leone during the opening ceremony.
Ola: That was definitely such an honor and something I will definitely remember for the rest of my life. It was almost like a dream walking out there in front of all those people carrying the Sierra Leone flag. I felt so proud and even more proud that so many of our people were watching and just as excited as I was. My favorite memory is definitely holding the flag at the open ceremonies and meeting all the other athletes from different countries.
OR: You once stated, “I am prepared to put Sierra Leone on the map.” Why is this so important to you?
Ola: We are not a widely-known country, especially in the athletics world, and sometimes it just takes one person to do something great to bring positive attention to a small country, which can open up the door for a world of other opportunities for those who will come after me.
OR: For people who have a limited perspective on Sierra Leone, what are three things you want them to know about your native country?
Ola: [It has the] friendliest and happiest people you will ever meet, beautiful coastal country, and best food in Africa.
OR: During the opening ceremony, many women were ecstatic because you were one of the only athletes with natural hair. How long have you been natural, and what is your regimen/must-have products?
Ola: I have been natural for about 3 years now. My regimen is moisturizing nightly with Shea Moisture products (which ironically is made by a Sierra Leonean woman in New York), deep conditioning every 2 to 4 weeks, and trimming every 3 months. I've been through SO many different hair products. My advice is to try them all out until you find which is best for your hair type.
OR: What advice do you have for young athletes who have dreams of representing their country in the Olympics one day?
Ola: Never stop dreaming and believing. If God said it, believe it! You definitely have to want it enough to make some sacrifices, but it's worth it!
OR: Can we expect to see you at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil?
Ola: [I] don't think I will be there as an athlete, but I hope to become more involved with Sierra Leone athletics and contribute in any other way I can. :-)
BIG thank you to Ola Sesay for taking the time out for this interview!