Sixteen year-old Gbenga Ezekiel, a secondary school student and rope skipper, who is making waves in a fast-growing and cost effective sports, talks about his Guinness World Record ambition with Abiodun Adewale
When the national coach, Chibuisi Ukandu and the Ondo State Rope Skipping Association introduced rope skipping to school pupils and students across Akure, the Ondo State capital in 2020, little did they know about the impact that such inexpensive sport was going to have on the children.
Two years down the line, Gbenga Ezekiel, a 16-year-old student of Ijapo High School in Akure, is going beyond the bare minimum of just skipping and winning prizes, as he took a shot at breaking the Guinness World Record for most skips on one foot in one minute.
With the current record of 262 skips being held by Rasel Islam of Bangladesh, Gbenga knew how much he had to do to surpass the record.
Earlier this year, he thought he had done it, when his coach, Chibuisi Ukandu recorded his attempt of 271 skips. But that was not going to be accepted by the Guinness World Record due to lack of a valid counting system and verified judges.
Ukandu told APROKOVIBES Sports Extra that Gbenga’s desire to smash the record was born out of disappointment of not attending an international competition.
“He was among the team selected for the International Rope Skipping Organisation World Championship held in July, in Greensboro, North Carolina, USA. However, the team could not make the trip due to lack of sponsorship. Before then he always came to tell me of World Record holders he watched on YouTube. After watching Rasel Islam set Guinness World Record in the most skips on one foot in one minute, he said to me that he can break the record. I encouraged him and the first day he skipped 251. On his return from school the next day, to my amazement, he skipped 271,” Ukandu told APROKOVIBES Sports Extra.
Moved by his ambition, Gbenga’s coach officially applied for the record again in May 2022 and they had to wait till October before they were given the greenlight to go ahead.
“I did the application for him by creating his account, that was in May 2022 and we thought it would come up in August.
“But they didn’t get back to us until first week of October. They sent us the guidelines and told us we could go ahead and make the attempt in line with the guidelines, “ the coach recounted.
On Monday October 31, everything looked set for a landmark achievement; not just in the sports that is fast fascinating to school children in the state, but in Ondo State sports generally, because no athlete from the state has made the Guinness World Record before.
In the presence of judges and officials of the Ondo State Sports Council as well as the Nigeria Rope Skipping Federation, Gbenga stormed to 266 skips and 267, as recorded by the judges. – Both figures are more than the 262 skips record held by Rasel Islam of Bangladesh.
Visibly exhausted from the exercise, the young skipper found himself a seat by the pool side of the arena, breathed heavily and eventually balanced his breathe.
With the zeal that characterized his attempt, Gbenga told APROKOVIBES Sports Extra about his hopes of becoming a renowned rope skipper from the Sunshine State.
“I started rope skipping in October 2021 before the inter-school rope skipping championship in Ondo State.
“Before now I have been doing rope skipping for leisure at home, but I realized it was such an interesting sports, and it doesn’t cost much,” Gbenga said as he was still catching his breathe.
Although he joined the state team barely a year ago, his interest in the exercise isn’t accidental as he was an ardent skipper from time.
One of the judges at the attempt, Olurebi Olawumi also explained the process of validating the number of skips and the time.
When he started, we had about five judges in front of him and three other judges behind the camera. So in his attempt, we recorded 266 and 267 skips. So, what we do is playback the video on camera in slow motion and we can benchmark it for 266 for onward approval by the Guinness World Record Management,” she explained.
The national coach, Chibuisi Ukandu expressed optimism about the chances of Gbenga’s potential record and the prospects of the fast growing sports.
“The boy has done his best, and that has made everyone of us proud. What it now left for us is to forward the evidences to Guinness World Record for verification, and after a successful ratification, a certificate will be presented to him.
“And as a matter of fact, Gbenga is not only making himself and Ondo State proud, it is a glory that will ring across Nigeria. So, we are also using this medium to reach out to intending skippers in different schools to join this cost effective and beneficial sports, “ he said.
General Manager of the Ondo State Sports Council, Henry Babatunde who also witnessed the event was full of praises for the effort and promised to canvass for the recognition of the sports at the national sports festival.
“I am aware that the coach has been preparing this lad for this feat and I’m personally excited because it’s a plus for us in Ondo State. So I want to congratulate the boy, his school and the rope skipping association for attempting this record.
Also, we are going to make a report to the governor on this, and I will also present this before the National Council on Sports so we can get it enlisted as one of the accredited sports for the national sports festival, if not this edition, at least in subsequent ones.
After months of constant practicing, Gbenga has eventually ticked one of the boxes of his aims in rope skipping.
“I feel a lot relived now because doing it has been taken away from my mind, although the result I am expecting will also bring another kind of feeling.
“But my coach had told me it might take some time before we get a feedback, so I am turning my full attention back to to my books, knowing that I have made my attempt. It was successful and will be glad if it is approved,” the lad said with a face beaming with confidence.’’