After badly injuring her ankle three weeks before the 2015 AAU Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships in Virginia, Naja Jwahir Ji Jaga could have waved the white flag and hoped for next year.
Instead, the seventh-grader from Summit Public Schools strapped on her shoes and competed in two events, not only showing the nation guts, but also a javelin thrower that should be feared by competitors for years to come.
On Tuesday, 12-year-old Jaga was recognized by Richmond City Council for battling adversity to place fourth for her age group in the javelin event at Northfolk State University in August. She is also the only member of an impressive Richmond Grinders’ track team to bring home a championship medal from Junior Olympics, Mayor Tom Butt said.
Jaga, who was 11 years old at the time of the competition, severely injured her right ankle during practice at Contra Costa College. The injury greatly diminished the likelihood that she’d be able to compete in the 800 meter, shotput and javelin events at Junior Olympics, which were three weeks away.
While Jaga decided to pull out of the 800-meter race to risk further injury, she insisted on competing in the shot put and javelin events, even though those events required that she plant her right foot in order to make the tosses.
Despite the injury, she just missed placing as a finalist in the shot put, then went onto place fourth in javelin following a gallant battle.
Mayor Tom Butt marveled at Jaga’s strength and determination.
“We want to see you in the Olympics,” Councilmember Nat Bates said, adding credit also goes to Jaga’s coaches for helping to foster her talents.
Jaga humbly accepted a City Council proclamation in her honor.
“I just want to thank all my supporters and my parents,” she said. “Without you guys, I wouldn’t be the athlete, student or person I am today.”
Jaga also managed to accomplish something else that seemed near-impossible: Getting City Council to agree on something.
Mayor Butt pointed out that all members on City Council signed the proclamation honoring the young athlete.