Eight months pregnant taekwondo medalist Aminat Idrees surprised by attention

Aminat Idrees won three medals while eight months pregnant. Supplied

Aminat Idrees won gold, silver and bronze medals in taekwondo at the ongoing Nigerian National Sports Festival in the southern city of Benin, all while eight months pregnant, but says she has been surprised by the attention that has followed.

Idrees, who was representing Lagos State at the festival -- Nigeria's "local Olympics" -- won gold in the pair poomsae, silver in the team poomsae, and bronze in the individual poomsae.

Taekwondo poomsae is a non-contact event involving a series of synchronized demonstrated moves simulating attack and defense.

Still, Idrees' feats grabbed instant headlines and turned her into a viral sensation, but the martial artists told ESPN that she was blindsided by the unexpected attention.

"I am not a social media person," Idrees told ESPN.

"I don't like noise and I don't like attention because I am very shy. I just wanted to have fun participating at this tournament. It was the passion, that was the driving force. The passion for the sport of taekwondo, so all the noise and all the attention that came afterwards was a surprise -- a very big surprise to me.

"I did not anticipate it would be this loud. Not this loud, not to Nigeria, not to the world. But I believe that we as humans, we want something but it is God who decides so it all came by surprise to me."

Amid the attention was some criticism about why a woman who is eight months pregnant would take part in such a physically taxing event, but Aminat says she got medical clearance to compete.

"Attending the sports festival was never a personal decision," Idrees said.

"First I had to pray about it then I discussed with my husband, consulted doctors, and the Nigeria Taekwondo Federation.

"I decided to participate in this tournament because I know that it is something I could do. I've been training consistently and there [hasn't] been much difficulty during and after training. My coaches believe in me as much as I believe in myself. I was ready physically and mentally for the tournament despite my pregnancy, since it wasn't combat it was just a demonstration.

"Moreover, the major poomsae events at the festival lasted for about two hours, which is more like my normal training duration so it was just as normal as any training day."

Pregnant or not, Idrees is no stranger to winning medals in taekwondo. An 18-year veteran of the Korean martial art, Idrees won her first major medal at the 2012 sports festival.when she claimed gold in the team poomsae.

She has won medals every year since in poomsae (demonstration) and kyorugi (combat) competition, at the Korean Ambassadors's Cup, the Nigerian National Sports Festival and the IBILE Games (Lagos State's annual sports festival).

"This is not the first time I am winning medals in poomsae so they knew that I was experienced," Idrees told ESPN.

"If I was a newbie, probably it would not be possible [officials to allowed her to compete while pregnant]. But it is something I have been doing so they believed in me."

Idrees is not the first Nigerian athlete to compete while pregnant.

In 2000, Ann Chiejine kept goal for Nigeria at the African Women Championships while pregnant. The Super Falcons won the tournament, beating South Africa in the final.

Idrees said that pregnant women they should undertake exercise or compete in sport without consulting their medical advisers

"I would advise pregnant women to exercise, of course, but only as it has been recommended by their doctors," she told ESPN.

"It is easy for me because it is something I have been doing for over 18 years. My system has already adapted to it: That is why I could do that without stress; you should not try what you have not done before. Majorly, just follow doctor's advise."