Stephen Mozia (16 August 1993) is a Nigerian shot putter. His parents and older siblings were born in Nigeria but moved to the United States for academic reasons and ended up staying. When his parents could afford it the family traveled back to Nigeria and so Mozia has been a dual citizen since pretty young.
Mozia‘s track and field journey began in a traditional US American way, getting ready for another sport–he wanted to improve his footwork for basketball. A self-described ‘goofy freshman’, he was known for tripping over his own feet while running in a straight line. His brothers threw the shot, his American football coach was the throws coach, and his best friend threw so they pulled him off the oval and toward throwing.
“When I first picked up the shot, I thought ‘wow, this is really heavy,’” Mozia recalls. “So, in my first year, I mainly threw discus. As I got stronger, then I started to throw the shot. I wasn’t great in either event.” His 1st season saw him hit 9,57m (31′ 5″) in the shot and around 30m (99′) in the discus.
Mozia played football and basketball as well until my junior year; I stayed with football but did indoor track full time so no hoops I decided to take track seriously. Grew into my body a little bit. I was a
better discus thrower [than shot putter] so I switched to the spin in shot so that I could practice the disc spin indoors. How young and naive I was [laughter]. This caused his big breakthrough in college, “Well I’d say thanks to God and coach [Megan] Johnson for teaching me how to throw correctly.”
Throwholics spoke with Mozia about his journey to Rio.
|2008||9,57m | 31′ 5″|
|2009||13,00m | 42′ 8″|
|2010||17,17m | 56′ 4″|
|2011||19,41m | 63′ 8¼”||Greensboro NC 17 June|
|2012||20,20m | 66′ 3¼”||19,10m | 62′ 8″i||Bloomington IN 16 June |Ithaca NY 18 Feb|
|2013||19,89m | 65′ 3″i||Ithaca NY 19 Jan|
|2014||20,79| 68′ 2″i||Hanover NH 1 Mar|
|2015||20,18m | 66′ 2″||Ithaca NY 18 Apr|
|2016||21,03m | 69′ 0″i||Nashville TN 16 Jan|
Zylstra: After hitting 21m, what are your indoor plans?
Mozia: Now that I’ve hit the standard I’ll probably compete every other week. Hopefully [IAAF] Indoor Worlds at the end of it.
Zylstra: Do you have any goals for Portland?
Mozia: To make the final definitely, just see how well I can do and hit a big mark.
Zylstra: Tell me about your recent 21m throw.
Mozia: Nice and smooth. Definitely a lot more I can get into it. Hopefully it’s just the beginning.
Zylstra: What size ball do you throw indoors? … outdoors?
Mozia: 128mm outdoors; indoors I just use the big red ones everyone uses [laughter] No idea what size they are.
Zylstra: Ha. So no tungsten 128mm for you. What are your numbers in the weight room?
Mozia: I don’t really max’ out so I have no idea. I’ve gotten stronger. That’s all that matters.
Zylstra: What do you need to work on, improve?
Mozia: My finish still has a lot of room for improvement. But just general consistency is the goal.
Zylstra: What are you doing differently to prepare for the Olympic Games?
Mozia: I got a job and moved to Knoxville [Tennessee USA] training with coach[John] Newell and Tavis Bailey. I’m eating better and sleeping more. But I’d say the most important aspect is not having the stress of an Ivy League Engineering program on my back.
Zylstra: What do you need to do to be named to the Nigerian Olympic Team?
Mozia: Hit the Nigerian Olympic standard of 20,60m (67′ 7″) and compete in our trials.
Zylstra: Is throwing part of your off-season training? If so, what do you throw?
Mozia: Now I’m throwing regularly, mostly medicine balls and the 16 pound shot.
Zylstra: Traditionally you have thrown further indoors. Any reason why?
Mozia: Probably because I’m from the northeast [USA]. By the time you can get outside and throw it’s the end of the season. Plus the fact that I did three events outdoors as well. I feel like if you look at me, competition wise, I’m better at competing outdoors but focus on shot indoors so I get a big throw.
Zylstra: Who’s your coach?
Mozia:I still send video to my coach [Megan Johnson] at Cornell and she gives me feedback and queues but mainly I work with coach Newell down in the [University of Tennessee] 2-3 times a week.
Zylstra: Does Nigeria cover your expenses?
Mozia: Well, if I qualify for World Indoors then yes. They doesn’t cover my costs ’til outdoors. Nigeria doesn’t really cover training expenses but that’s what’s my job for [laugh].
Zylstra: What are you doing for work?
Mozia: I’m at Emerson Electric as a sales support engineer.
Zylstra: Is your entire family serious about academics?
Mozia: Yes, my parents graduated from Ramapo [College] in New Jersey. My brother was getting his PhD at Cornell before he passed away. My other brother is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). My oldest sister is a teacher with a Master of Disability Studies and my other sister is a nurse and she’ll earn her masters degree next year. Academics is everything in my family.
Zylstra: Did your brother have any influence on your college choice?
Mozia: Yea. He was in his second PhD year and told me I should just take a recruiting visit there. I did and fell in love with the place.
Zylstra: Seems like you’re living a book I’d read.
Mozia: I feel like it. I plan on getting a [Masters in Business Administration] as well. A Cornell mechanical engineering grad’ that’s gone to the Olympics and holds the national record for his country as well as worked successfully at a Fortune 500 company is definitely a great picture. I’ll keep throwing as long as my company stays happy with the arrangement I have I’ll be fine. Emerson let’s me take off when I need. I have lofty goals in sport and well as business and I need to make sure they both are being given due diligence.
Zylstra: What keeps you throwing?
Mozia: First, I just want to see how far I can throw. Accolades are nice but the ability to work hard and struggle towards something is the best part of life towards me. My boss once tell me you should never do anything in life that you don’t love and that doesn’t give you hope. And throw far is something that definitely provides both.
God gave me this talent for a reason so I can’t waste it. And really I’m only here because of God and all my parents’ sacrifices moving to a new country. It’s a lot of hard work and I’m not sure if most people could do what I do on a daily basis; but I don’t get overwhelmed easy and after Cornell engineering this life is easy. And it’s put me in a position to help a lot of people in life and grow-up as a man to help others more. Like being captain of my track team for two years was probably the most influential I’ve ever been and a lot of people have told me I’ve changed their lives for the better. Being a positive influence one people. Showing that you can be smart and religious and still enjoy life. Just in general use track as a conduit to help others. If I get sponsored I’d mainly want to just do volunteering efforts to help other kids
To me, God is telling me be a light in a world of darkness. So really I just want to be a good person. Help as many people as I possibly can. I live very much by the saying “do the best you can and leave the rest to God“. I’m Catholic and been raised Catholic. My faith really made me realize I can be much greater than I think. The older I get the more I appreciate it and grow in it. But since college I do the sign of the cross and pray before every throw.
Zylstra: How long will you be in the throwing game?
Mozia: I don’t know. Until life forces me out of Knoxville. I like my set-up here.
Zylstra: How do you feel about your 21,11m (69′ 3″)?
Mozia: I still feel like I missed a lot of it. Probably the most consistent I have been in my life in terms of two meet throwing inches apart from each other. I still think there’s a lot left but I need to throw far at the end of outdoors. That’s what matters.
30 January 2016 series:
1st – 20,06m (65′ 9″)
2nd – 21,11m (69′ 3″)
3rd – 21,43m (70′ 3″) foot foul, “Heel skimmed the top of the toe board.”
*The officials measured the throw because the marking official questioned the validity of the foul call
4th – 20m-low intentional foul
5th – 20,69m (67′ 10″)
6th – 20,73m (68′ 0″)
Zylstra: Back-to-back 21m PBs. How does it feel?
Mozia: I am ecstatic about it actually. I mean, in two meets I thrown two times the number of 20m throws in my life and saved most effortlessly except for the 21m ones. Anyone who has followed my throwing career knows I had problems with consistency. I think a lot of it had to do with school but I’m hoping I can stay at least over 20,50m (67′) for a long while. The21,43m hurt. It was such a small foul. I could have definitely saved it. But it keeps me hungry.
Zylstra: Have your training throws predict another 21m mark?
Mozia: I have been training from about 20m–21,50m-ish in practice pretty consistently. So it lines up with practice pretty much dead on. I usually throw further in meets though so I am hoping that’ll pick up as my form gets better.
Zylstra: Do you stay in the ring when throwing in practice?
Mozia: No–maybe like two or three throws at the end but its bad habit I should probably not do.
Zylstra: How are you connected with the Garden State Track Club?
Mozia: There was this track club I’ve apart of from New Jersey. I always hold my state and especially hometown Hackensack, NJ close to my heart. It’s nice to be able to do it for them a little bit as well as for Nigeria.
Zylstra: Is South Africa’s Janus Robberts‘ 21,97m (72’ 1″) African Record on your bucket list?
Mozia: Yes, it definitely is. In my mind it’s just a matter of time. I would prefer it this year but by next year with improving strength levels and experience it’s almost a guarantee in my mind.