25 May 2022

Kind-hearted Dundalk athlete, Patience Jumbo-Gula, thankful for 'blessing in disguise'


Kind-hearted Dundalk athlete, Patience Jumbo-Gula, thankful for 'blessing in disguise'

Patience Jumbo-Gula is an advocate of the ‘what’s for you won’t pass you’ school of thought.

Patience Jumbo-Gula is an advocate of the ‘what’s for you won’t pass you’ school of thought.

The talented sprinter had her eyes fixed on European and World Championships glory in 2020, along with potentially featuring on the Irish 4x100m relay team at the now-deferred Olympic Games.

Yet, in spite of the Covid-19-enforced setbacks, which has led to her typical training programme being interrupted, Jumbo-Gula is relaxed and still as happy as ever.

Her outlook is as refreshing as her personality. She’s trusting of both God and the process, whatever the latter may be.

“I believe the lockdown was a blessing in disguise because I got time to reflect, the chance to reflect on past achievements, and also to look at other things in life, like spending more time with family,” the St. Vincent’s secondary school alumni says.

“I appreciated the lockdown and even though it was a huge pandemic and so on, it was nice to get a break from athletics and the opportunity to do what I like to do.

“I feel ready and motivated to go back training hard and sometimes you can just need that break from what you’re doing because it can be very overwhelming. Hopefully everyone will have used this lockdown to recharge, reflect, see how far they’ve come and look forward to the future.”

Motivation was served by her younger brother - she is one of four children - and fellow local athletics prodigy, Israel Olatunde, whom she trained with on occasions during the weeks. And while her coach, Daniel Kilgallion, continued to supply regimes over Whatsapp, with the gyms closed, she had to come up with some alternative means of testing the body with her Felda instructor, Maurice McMahon.

This involved hoisting bottles of water in place of weights, etc. A fairly far-fetched way of working out, the 19-year-old quips. Nonetheless, she’s happy with the shape she’s kept herself in.

“We definitely adapted to the restrictions and handled them well I think.”

Of course, Jumbo-Gula’s studies maintained her attention span as she completed a PLC course in Applied Psychology and Social Studies with a view to furthering her education in the disciplines from September, possibly at DkIT.

“Social care will enable me to hopefully do a masters’ in something such as social work and psychology,” she adds.

“I have a really deep passion for those in disadvantaged areas and those who are less privileged; that’s where the passion has come from; I want to help people who can’t help themselves.

“Because of my family background and my parents, they’ve taught me and my siblings to care for others. You have to care for others, it can’t just be ‘me, me, me’ all the time; you have to show compassion. I’ve been taught to love one another and help people.”

It’s that modesty which develops the admiration for Jumbo-Gula and nourishes a desire to see her achieve what she sets her mind to.

Highlighting Olympic medallists, Jamaica’s Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce and Allyson Felix of America as role models and athletes who she styles herself on, there is credence given to particular ingredients of their make-up.

“I feel like they’re very humble, gracious and determined to achieve. They’re great sportswomen that I definitely gain inspiration from.”

Likewise, another Dundalk woman, Gina Akpe-Moses, who Jumbo-Gula landed silver with in the 2018 World U20 Championships relay final, is a learning source. The similarities are, indeed, acute, with Akpe-Moses having been only a few years ahead of Patience at school.

Although Jumbo-Gula, in her own right, clearly has talents which are the envy of competitors. After all, having stormed through the heat at the European U18 Championships two years ago, she set a new championship record of 11.59 in a blistering semi-final performance, only for a slow start to the 100m final to cost her the medal she deserved.

“A race like that motivates me even more to keep on trying and training, and to believe in myself and God,” she says, considering her display in Gyor, Hungary.

“But the championship record is something I’m very proud of.

“For the heat and the semi, I was quite calm and relaxed, but after running so fast, I think it got to me and I felt the pressure going into the final, which I think was reflected in my race.

“I try to stay calm but that’s sometimes difficult when you’re under pressure, I tend to get a bit stressed and it’s something I’m trying to learn by, to remain calm and focussed regardless of anything else.”

Her coaches and sports psychologist are helping her in this regard, but with the aid of God and her intrinsic genuity, the future, we all hope, is as bright and successful as her talents suggest.

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