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Olympics: Team Nigeria podium success in Tokyo hangs in the balance

Olympics: Team Nigeria podium success in Tokyo hangs in the balance

Every four years, the world stops to witness the biggest and greatest sports showpiece on earth, the Olympics Games as it takes center stage in which thousands of athletes from over 200 countries participate in a variety of competitions.

The Games of the XXXII Olympiad which is the official name for Tokyo 2020 is scheduled to be held from 23 July to 8 August 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

With the COVID-19 outbreak, the Games which was originally due to take place from 24 July to 9 August 2020, was postponed in March 2020 as concerns about the pandemic began to affect qualifying events which were also postponed till the coast was clear to resume the qualifiers.

These postponements naturally affected the preparations of the countries to get their tickets to Tokyo and ensure their athletes were in best shape and Nigeria was not left out.

In a bid to get our qualifying series on track, the federal government made sure the ‘Nigerian Olympics’, the 20th National Sports Festival was held in Edo State despite facing its own stages of postponement.

With the conclusion of the Festival which equally served as qualification series for some athletes like Grace Nwokocha who won the women’s sprint double of 100m and 200m events to ensure her qualification for the Olympics, the Federal Ministry of Youth and Sports has now shifted focus to the Tokyo Olympics.

Meanwhile, some of the home- based athletes who have qualified in their various events to be in Team Nigeria for the trip to the Far East, are expected to begin camping in Lagos and Port Harcourt for final build-up.

It will be recalled that the sports minister, Sunday Dare had said the the National Camp for the Olympics Games will be set in Edo State to allow contingents for the games to take advantage of the world-class Samuel Ogbemudia stadium, Benin City and other facilities built by the Governor Godwin Obaseki-led administration.

Dare had disclosed this to journalists during a visit to Edo State ahead of the National Sports Festival.

He had stated then that Edo was the best place to host contingents for the Olympic Games, adding: “There is no better place to host Nigerian athletes for the Tokyo Olympic Games than Edo State. The state already has the facilities and the national camp will be set up in Edo State.”

But the rumoured fallout between the ministry and the Edo government over the counterpart funding for the festival may have been responsible for the shunning of Edo as a training camp.

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However, it will be noted that prior to the kick off of the Edo 2020, 14 track and field athletes under the supervision of two coaches were in Port Harcourt camp. In Abuja, eight para athletes, 14 para table tennis players and eight weightlifters are in camp while eight wrestlers are camped in Yenogoa, Bayelsa State under the supervision of two coaches.

The first phase of camping was conducted at the High Altitude Training Centre, Federal College of Education, Pankshin, Plateau State with four athletes in attendance.

The Pankshin camp was used as a prelude to reviving middle and long distance races in the country.

The first phase of camping held from November 20th to December 9th, while the second took place between December 7th and 24th.

Going down the memory lane, Nigeria first participated in the Olympic Games in 1952, and has sent athletes to compete in every Summer Olympic Games since then, except for the boycotted 1976 Summer Olympics and have won a total of 25 medals, mostly in athletics and boxing.

The last two Olympics Team Nigeria participated in namely London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016 were complete disaster for the nation as only one medal was won. The only medal was bronze from the football team led by John Mikel Obi.

According to records, 49 athletes took part in 8 sports in 2012 while 71 athletes participated in 10 sports in 2016.

It will be noted here that there are 26 sports in the Olympic Programme and Team Nigeria to date has participated in 12 different sports.

However, it is yet unknown how many sports Nigeria will participate in at the Tokyo 2020 due to the fact that some qualifiers are yet to be concluded.

As at the time of the writing, Team Nigeria will take part in 11 events where there is comparative advantage.

In a release from the ministry in 2020 noted that “The days of jamboree at the Olympics are over as Nigeria would only compete in sports where she has comparative advantage.”

With the time ticking fast, there are worries that the country may not perform well in Tokyo or some sports may not feature Nigeria.

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