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Optimism high as Team Nigeria participate in its 17th Olympic Games

Optimism high as Team Nigeria participate in its 17th Olympic Games

69 years ago, Team Nigeria made her debut at 1952 Olympic Games which held in Helsinki, Finland which had 9 athletes participating in sprint races, relay, long jump and high jump but ended the Games without a single medal.

Four years after, Nigeria again competed at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia and 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy without winning a single medal also.

However, Nigeria competed at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan where she won its first Olympic medal through Nojeem Maiyegun. He claimed bronze in the men’s light middleweight class.

Nigeria then waited another eight years to get on the podium again at the Munich Games in 1972 when another boxer, Isaac Ikhouria won another bronze in the light heavyweight category.The following two editions, 1976 and 1980 saw again Nigeria not winning any medal.

It would take another 12 years before the third medal-a historic silver medal after two bronze medals, from boxing by Peter Konyegwachie, who took part in the men’s featherweight category.

The country also won the first-ever medal in athletics. The quartet of Sunday Uti, Moses Ugbusien, Rotimi Peters, and Innocent Egbunike won the bronze in the men’s 4×400m relay.

Thus, it took Nigeria 20 years between 1964 and 1984; missing out the 1976 Montreal edition, which was boycotted, to win four medals-three from boxing and one from athletics.

Seoul 1988 was the first edition for which the football team qualified but they came last in Group D, which also had Brazil, Australia, and Yugoslavia. The team which has amateur footballers, led by German coach, Manfred Hoener conceded eight goals and scored one through the late Rashidi Yekini.

Four years later which is Barcelona 1992, Team Nigeria did better as David Izonritei and Richard Igbineghu won silver medals in the men’s heavyweight and men’s super-heavyweight categories while men and women’s relay teams won medals in the 4×100m relay races.

The men’s quartet of Olapade Adeniken, Davidson Ezinwa, Chidi Imoh, and Oluyemi Kayode won silver while the women’s quartet of Beatrice Utondu, Christy Opara-Thompson, Mary Onyali, and Faith Idehen won bronze.

However, the Atlanta 1996 is arguably Nigeria’s most successful tournament as Team Nigeria won an unprecedented two gold medals, one silver, and three bronze medals.

Chioma Ajunwa won the country’s first-ever gold medal in the women’s Long Jump event on July 29, 1996, with her very first jump while the ‘Dream Team 1’, the U-23 football led by Bonfrere Jo became the first African country defeated a star-studded Argentina 3-2 to win gold medal in football.

The women’s 4x400m relay team won a silver; while there were more personal triumphs in Athletics. Falilat Ogunkoya came third in the women’s 400m; Mary Onyali also came third in the women’s 200m while Duncan Dokiwari won Nigeria’s almost customary medal in boxing in the men’s super-heavyweight class as Team Nigeria ended with six medals.

If I was the Minister of Sports….!
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During the Syndey 2000, Nigeria’s relay team which had Clement Chukwu, Jude Monye, the late Sunday Bada, and Enefiok Udo-Obong was allocated the gold medal in 2012 after the USA team were stripped of their medal after a member of that team, Antonio Pettigrew admitted to the use of banned substances

Gloria Alozie won a silver in the 100m hurdles while Ruth Ogbeifo won Nigeria’s first-ever medal in weightlifting.

The centenary games in 2004 in Greece was an all-men affair as the quartets in the 100m and 400m relay teams achieved bronze finishes. Olusoji Fasuba, Uchenna Emedolu, Aaron Egbele, and Deji Aliu made up the 100m relay team while Enefiok Udo-Obong, for the second consecutive Games, picked up a medal with James Godday, Musa Audu, and Saul Weigopwa.

In 2008 in Beijing, another male football team, led by the late Promise Isaac, and coached by Samson Siasia, won the silver medal as they lost to Argentina in the final from a goal by Angel di Maria. The Argentine team also paraded a certain Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez.

Blessing Okagbare won an individual medal in athletics in the Long Jump while the relay quartet of Franca Idoko, Gloria Kemasuode, Halimat Ismaila, and Oludamola Osayomi won the silver in the 4x100m relay in a season’s best time of 43.04s.

Chika Chukwumerije won Nigeria’s first-ever medal in the men’s Taekwondo 80kg+ category while Mariam Usman followed up Ogbeifo’s 2000 silver medal in weightlifting with a bronze in the 75kg category.

Meanwhile, the last two games-2012 in London and the 2016 Games in Rio have been near barren, with just one medal won. That was the bronze won by the U-23 football team, led by Mikel Obi, also coached by Siasia to the Rio Games.

Speaking with Trust Sports, the President, Nigeria Olympians Association, Olumide Oyedeji who said “impossible is not nothing. never say never but I believe in the contingent. They know what to do. I know what it means to be at that stage as everybody wants to win”.

In the same vein, the chairman of Air Warriors basketball team, Abduldumajeed Solademi said he is confident Team Nigeria will do well in Tokyo.

“From my perspective, I want to see Nigeria on the podium. It should be a good outing for Nigeria. I believe we will have a good outing as the sky will be our beginning. It will be a great sight to hear the National Anthem being sung on the podium. I am optimistic but pressure should not be placed too much on them,” he said.

Since Nigeria has been attending the Olympic Games since 1952, Africa’s most populous country in total has won just 25 medals which comprises of three gold, 10 silver and 12 medals while 722 male and female athletes in 16 editions prior to this 2020 edition which began yesterday.

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