The year 2017 may not have been an all-round fantastic year for Nigeria as far as sports is concerned; but nonetheless, there were some glowing moments that will linger for a long time.
As part of PREMIUM TIMES’ End of the Year review, we serve you the seven top sporting moments for Nigeria in 2017 in no particular order.
1. Aruna Quadri achieves best ranking ever (Table Tennis)
Nigeria and indeed Africa’s ambassador in table tennis, Aruna Quadri, had another epic year even though there were some low moments for the talented table tennis star.
In 2017, Quadri set a new personal record for Nigeria and himself as he was ranked 21 in the end-of-the-year ranking.
Before this latest leap, Quadri’s best rating was 25th in the world.
Having done this well in 2017, expectations are high that the Nigerian star would break into the world’s top 20 in 2018.
Among other records to his name, Quadri prides himself as the only African to make it to the quarterfinal of the World Cup and Olympic Games singles’ event.
Quadri is also the first African to win an ITTF title outside the continent having conquered all at the Polish Open earlier in the year.
2. D’Tigress Conquer Africa (Basketball)
The Nigeria Women’s National Basketball team, D’Tigress also made 2017 a memorable one for Nigerian sports following their conquest in Bamako, Mali.
Made up largely of fresh and ‘untested’ faces, Coach Sam Vincent put together one of the best teams Nigeria has ever had on the court.
Though it wasn’t the first time that Nigeria will be winning the women Afrobasket title, the way D’Tigeress did it in Mali kept most tongues wagging.
The ladies won all their games en-route to being crowned African champions.
3. Nigerian Bobsled Women Team qualifying for 2018 Winter Olympics
Nigeria’s participation at Winter Olympics before now could only be best imagined.
However, from the blues, the country’s flag will be hoisted at the 2018 edition following the heroics of three young ladies brave enough to walk the path never tried by anyone from their nation.
The trio of Seun Adigun and brakemen Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga, however, took off the sports of bobsleigh also known as bobsled and began the journey towards making history as the first Nigerians to compete at the Winter Olympics.
Their dreams became a reality as the trio qualified for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang after completing races in Utah, Whistler and Calgary during the qualifiers.
This feat brought them mentions in some of the biggest media platforms around the world and landed them an appearance on prime U.S. Talk Show, The Ellen Show.
4. Odunayo Adekuoroye wins Nigeria’s first ever silver medal at World Championship (Wrestling)
With the right funding and encouragement, there is no gainsaying that Odunayo Adekuoroye can have the world at her feet as far as wrestling is concerned.
The Ondo State-born wrestler in 2017 emerged as the first woman from Nigeria to qualify for a final match at the Senior World Wrestling Championships held in Paris. She eventually settled for the silver medal.
Adekuoroye is ranked No. 1 in Africa in her category and won gold in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and bronze at the 2015 World Wrestling Championships in the U.S.
5. Plateau United emerges champions of Nigeria League (Football)
Another big moment on the domestic scene of Nigerian sports in 2017 was when Plateau United FC of Jos won the 2016/2017 Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL).
It was their first-ever win, after amassing 66 points from 38 matches.
Few days back, the Plateau State Governor Simon Lalong rewarded Plateau United players with N1.5 million each for their historic feat which will see them represent Nigeria in the CAF Champions League alongside another surprise package, MFM FC of Lagos.
6. Nigeria shines at World Para Powerlifting Championship
The place of physically-challenged athletes in Nigerian sports is noble to say the least as they often than not outshine the able bodies.
At the year ending World Championship in Mexico, the country’s powerlifters did not disappoint as they smashed world records after world records.
Nigeria won a total number of nine medals consisting of four gold medals – Folashade Alice Oluwafemiayo (86kg), Paul Kehinde (65kg), Roland Ezuruike (54kg) and Lucy Ejike (61kg); three Silver – Omolayo Bose (+79kg), Olaitan Ibrahim (67kg) and Loveline Obiji (86kg); as well as two bronze medals from Yakubu Adesokan (49kg) and Ndidi Nwosu (73kg).
They finished second on the overall medals table.
7. Super Eagles pick World Cup ticket (Football)
The Super Eagles had an impressive 2017 and the high point for them will be qualifying for the Russia 2018 World Cup in style.
Touted to be placed in the ‘Group of Death’ that had Africa’s power houses, Cameroon and Algeria, as well as former champions of the continent, Zambia, many had lost hope on Nigeria making it to Russia.
However, from the opening game away to Zambia in Ndola, the Super Eagles showed they meant business and game after game they soldiered on until the World Cup ticket, the sixth for the country, was achieved.
Beating Argentina 4-2 in a high profile friendly perhaps was the icing on the cake for the Super Eagles in 2017.
Some other notable mentions include the Nigeria men’s basketball team, D’Tigers, finishing second in the 2017 Afrobasket in Tunisia and Victor Moses wining the EPL title with Chelsea.