A Positive Influence: Stephen Mozia ’15 Hopes to Make Nigeria Proud in Rio
Set to represent Nigeria as a shot putter in the 2016 Summer Olympics, it’s hard to believe Stephen Mozia ’15 began his track career as a slow, uncoordinated sprinter. According to Mozia, he was “dragged” into throwing.
“I wasn’t very fast most importantly,” says Mozia, “I mainly did track to become more athletic and coordinated for basketball and football. My football coach was also the throwing coach, and my best friend at the time was a thrower, and my brothers were great throwers, so I basically got dragged into it.”
The switch was definitely the right move. Mozia capped off his high school career as a two-time shot put All-American, while additionally dominating in discus.
When it came time to select a college, Mozia was adamant he did not want to attend an Ivy League school. “I, for one, thought that Ivy League schools tended to have stuck up people, so I was not looking into them much,” describes Mozia. In fact, it was his brother – a Cornell graduate student – who convinced Mozia to even visit the Ithaca campus.
“My brother convinced me to give Cornell a chance because the track team is full of great people, it’s the best engineering school in the Ivy League, and [the team] wins all the time,” explains Mozia. “I went on a recruiting visit and, from that moment on, Cornell was one of my top choices.”
Ultimately, Mozia narrowed his college choices down to SEC powerhouse Arkansas and Cornell. However, the choice was easy because, according to Mozia, giving up the chance to throw at a top ranked program was a no-brainer. “The end decision was to lean toward sports or academics and, for me, that was a pretty easy decision.”
To say Mozia led an illustrious Cornell career is an understatement. Mozia competed on a national scale and was one of the Big Red’s breakout stars as a freshman. He placed seventh in the weight throw and took second in the shot put at the 2012 Indoor Heps in addition to winning the shot put at the Indoor IC4As and competing at the Indoor NCAA Championships in Boise, Idaho. In Boise, Mozia took 16th in the country with a throw of 56 feet and 11.25 inches. He holds the school and freshman shot put record with a distance of 62′ 8.”
Mozia prolonged his freshman success when he added the hammer and discus to his arsenal during the outdoor season. At the 2012 Outdoor Heps, he won the shot put (tying the school’s freshman record while notching Cornell’s second all-time highest score), earned second in the discus, and placed fourth in the hammer. He plowed forward with a second place finish in the 2012 IC4A Outdoor Championships shot put and discus competitions. He just barely missed qualifying for the NCAA Championship at the NCAA East Regional in Jacksonville, Fla., when he took 19th in the discus and 21st in the shot put. After the college season, Mozia earned a spot at the Junior World Championships in Barcelona by winning the US Junior National Championship.
By the time he was a sophomore, Mozia had become one of the top throwers in the country. He competed in both the Indoor and Outdoor National Championships, where he placed 11th in the shot put at the indoor event. Mozia placed second in the Indoor Heps and placed second in the weight throw. He also threw shot put at the Indoor IC4As, placing second and scoring eight more points for the Big Red. Mozia won the shot put in addition to placing sixth in discus at the Penn Relays. Mozia posted personal records in all four throwing events during that same year.
Mozia solidified his standing as one of the best throwers in the country during his junior season. Except for his second place finish in the SPIRE NCAA Indoor Invitational, Mozia took first in every indoor event leading up to the Indoor Heps. His best throw occurred at this meet, where he launched a 68’ 2.5” bomb to top the shot put leaderboard. At the Indoor National Championship two weeks later, Mozia threw for 65’ 9.25” to take second place. He continued his terrific year into the outdoor season by taking first place in the shot put, discus, and hammer throw at the Stanford Invitational. Following a strong showing at the Penn Relays, Mozia produced a fantastic performance at the Outdoor Heps by taking first in the shot put, while also posting a career best hammer throw to place third in the event in addition to finishing third in discus. He achieved first once again at the IC4A’s in shot put and even took second in discus. He smoothly competed in and qualified for both the shot put and discus at the NCAA East Prelims. Mozia repeated his second place finish at the National Championships, as well as notched a 13th place finish in discus.
Mozia capped off his Cornell career with an honorable mention All-American performance in the shot put at the 2015 NCAA Championships. He won both the discus and the shot put at IC4A’s to become the first Cornell athlete to be a four-time Ivy League Outdoor Heptagonal champion in the shot put. While simultaneously claiming second in the discus and hammer throw, Mozia was named Field MVP at Heps. During the winter, he even claimed the Ivy League indoor shot put title.
Among all his athletic success at Cornell, Mozia’s fondest memory occurred when Cornell won the Indoor Heps Championship by only one point. “It was really unbelievable,” states Mozia.
Aside from track and field, Mozia recalls great times of relaxing on porches during Ithaca summers and getting his only A, not including the curve, in his Intro to Thermodynamics class. “Due to the curve on the test, as so common with engineering courses, it was like a super A,” reminisces Mozia.
Before the Olympics, Mozia must prepare for two major meets: the African Championship and the Nigerian Olympic Trials. “Except for those, I might do a few professional meets here and there, but I enjoy my job so that’ll be pretty limited,” says Mozia.
Mozia currently lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he works as a Marketing Engineer for Emerson Electric. “Track is kind of a side job,” speaks Mozia. “So I’ll just continue to train like I have been after work with my training partner at the University of Tennessee Knoxville.”
Although he was born in the United States, if anyone ever asks Mozia, he will say that he is Nigerian. “I was raised Nigerian with Nigerian morals and values and have always had immense pride for my people and country,” expresses Mozia. “When I realized I could represent them and be a positive image for Nigeria, it really brought me nothing but happiness and definitely adds some fuel to my fire while training.”
For Mozia, competing in the Olympics is about more than just winning medals – it’s about being a role model. “If I can medal at major competitions, bring the pride to Nigeria, and be a positive influence as one person from my home country, all my hard work will be worth it in my mind. It really means a lot and I hope I can make them proud,” describes Mozia.
Mozia knows his track days won’t last forever. As a result, he hopes to expand his role in Emerson Electric after track. “I plan on getting my MBA in a year or two,” explains Mozia. “It will be a fun balance with no social life when I try to work a full-time job, get my MBA, and do track all in the same year. But a year or two after my MBA, I probably will give up doing track, at least at the level I am doing it now.”