Johny Akinyemi needed a “miracle” and a new nation to get to the Olympic Games.
The 23-year-old will become Nigeria’s first Olympic slalom canoeist at London 2012, having beaten the Beijing 2008 bronze medallist in a race-off to secure his place.
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I think of beating Benjamin Boukpeti as a modern-day miracle. When you see his muscles, you’ll understand
But Akinyemi has lived and trained in the Cheshire town of Warrington all his life, as his accent attests, and admits he is “not the darkest Nigerian you’re going to see, by a long way”.
He grew up as part of the British slalom squad’s junior programme, racing alongside names he can now expect to face as rivals at the Games, but switched to Nigeria in 2008.
“My dad’s side of the family is Nigerian – my grandad came from Lagos – and when you grow up as a mixed-race guy in the UK