2018 Commonwealth: All you need know about Nigeria’s team, prospects

Team Nigeria used to illustrate the story. [Photo credit: ACLSports]

From 1954 when Emmanuel Ifeajuna won Nigeria’s first ever gold medal in the men’s high jump at the Commonwealth Games with a record leap of 2.03m, Nigeria has used the games, now in the 21st edition, to showcase its athletes.

The race for medals at the 2018 Games effectively begins on April 5 for Nigeria and its 90-strong contingent has been given an extra incentive with the promise of $5, 000, $3, 000 and $2000 for every gold, silver and bronze medals won respectively.

PREMIUM TIMES gauges Team Nigeria athletes and their realistic medal prospects.

Table Tennis

1. Bode Abiodun

2. Azeez Jamiu

3. Quadri Aruna

4. Olajide Omotayo

5. Temitope Ogunsanya

6. Faith Obazuaye

7. Segun Toriola

Seven male Table Tennis players were selected to represent Nigeria and the major reason adduced for this is that the female ping-pongers had no realistic medal hope based on their performance at recent edition.

It is safe to call Nigeria a powerhouse in table tennis as the country is ranked fourth behind Singapore England and India.

With the blend of experience and youthfulness in the table tennis team, there is room for optimism for at least two or three medals in different shades.

The highest ranked Nigeria player remains Aruna Quadri with the most experienced being Segun Toriola.

Probable Gold Medals – 2

Weightlifting

1. Fatima Yakubu

2. Favour Agboro

3. Michael Anyalewechi

4. Monica Uweh

Para Powerlifting

1. Abdulazeez Ibrahim

2. Esther Oyema

3. Lucy Ejike

4. Ndidi Nwosu

5. Paul Kehinde

6. Roland Ezuruike

At the last Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, Nigeria topped the standings with six Gold medals largely aided by the Power-lifters.

The same trend is expected in the Gold Coast where as much as three world record holders are in Nigeria’s Powerlifting team.

For instance, the question on the lips of many is not whether Paul Kehinde will win Gold or not but whether the Lagos-based lifter will set new records in Gold Coast, Australia.

Mr Kehinde competed in the men’s 72 kg event at the 2014 Commonwealth Games where he won a gold medal and nothing less will be good enough at the 2018 edition.

At the IPC Powerlifting World Championships held in Mexico in 2017, He broke his own record of 220kg with a lift of 220.5kg. He then went further to break his own world record of 220.5kg at the 2018 9th Fazza World Cup held in Dubai in February with a lift of 221kg.

We wait to see if another record is on the cards.

Lucy Ejike is another world record holder in the Team Nigeria Powerlifting squad and she should be able to help preserve Nigeria’s dominance in this sport.

Nigeria has won all eight Commonwealth Games gold medals contested in Para powerlifting since the sport was introduced at Delhi 2010. A respectable gold medal windfall is therefore expected in the Gold Coast.

Probable Gold Medals – 5

Wrestling

1. Amas Daniel

2. Aminat Adeniyi

3. Blessing Oborududu

4. Blessing Onyebuchi

5. Bose Samuel

6. Ebikewenimo Welson

7. Ebimienfaghe Assizecourt

8. Melvin Bibo

9. Miesinnei Genesis

10. Odunayo Adekuoroye

11. Sinivie Boltic

12. Soso Tamarau

Fresh from their conquest at the Africa Wrestling championship held in Port Harcourt, the Nigeria wrestling team will be oozing with so much confidence.

The likes of Odunayo Adekuoroye is in a class of her own as far as wrestling is concerned in Africa and beyond.

The reigning Commonwealth champion could easily pass as Nigeria’s poster girl and her achievements are formidable.

Her ratings and form put her forward as one of Nigeria’s brightest Gold medal prospects at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Blessing Oborududu is another wrestler who looks ‘ripe’ for Gold at the Commonwealth Games.

The eight-time African wrestling champion is unequivocal on her target for Gold at the Commonwealth Games this year. This is her third attempt and perhaps the last.

In her debut at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, Ms Oborududu settled for silver while she added a bronze medal to her haul in Glasgow, this time, the 29-year is hoping to complete the cycle with gold.

Probable Gold Medals – 5

Athletics

1. Blessing Ibrahim

2. Blessing Okagbare-Ighoteguonor

3. Chidi Okezie

4. Chukwuebuka Enekwechi

5. Doreen Amata

6. Eke Kalu

7. Emmanuel Arowolo

8. Enoch Olaoluwa Adegoke

9. Fadekemi Florence Olude

10. Folasade Abugan

11. Glory Onome Nathaniel

12. Goodness Chinasa Duru

13. Henry Okorie

14. Isoken Igbinosun

15. Jennifer Madu

16. Joy Udo-Gabriel

17. Kelechi Nwanaga

18. Lindsay Lindley

19. Michael Edwards

20. Mohamed Rilwan Alowonle

21. Ogho-Oghene Egwero

22. Oluwatobiloba Amusan

23. Orukpe Eraiyokan

24. Oyeniyi Abejoye

25. Patience Okon George

26. Praise Idamadudu

27. Precious Okoronkwor

28. Queen Obisesan

29. Rita Ossai

30. Rosemary Chukwuma

31. Salihu Isah

32. Samson Nathaniel

33. Samuel Kure

34. Seye Ogunlewe

35. Stephen Mozia

36. Suwaibidu Galadima

37. Uruemu Idjesa

38. Usheoritse Itsekiri

To whom much is given, much is also expected hence attention will be on the track and field squad to deliver as many as possible medals for Nigeria.

For a respectable number of the athletes selected to represent Nigeria, this is perhaps the biggest stage they would be competing ever.

Whether the hunger for glory will be enough to drive the athletes to glory or whether the stage will consume the athletes; most of whom are home-based is yet to be seen.

Regardless of how things pan out, one must point out that the athletes in Australia are not necessarily the country’s best as the new wave of athletes shining and giving hope for a new horizon for Nigeria are all holed up in their different schools where they are on scholarships.

That said, one might hope for medals from the likes of Tobi Amusan.

Just three years ago, Mr Amusan was struggling for a breakthrough like every other home-based athlete.

However, she has since become one of the athletes Nigeria hinges its medal hopes on going into a major championship. Such has been her meteoric rise!

Having made it to the final of the World Indoor championships just recently and with her consistently good performances in the NCAA circuit, one can hope for gold from Mr Amusan.

Also, though not much was heard from Blessing Okagbare in the initial build-up to the Commonwealth Games in two weeks or thereabouts, all that has changed as the double Commonwealth Champions has shown she still has the fire in her.

For now, it looks like the sole target for her in Gold Coast is to inspire the relay team to win GOLD in the women’s 4x100m relay.

There’s no doubt that a fresh and well-rested Ms Okagbare could be the tonic needed for Nigeria to claim GOLD in this particular event in a few days’ time.

Patience George in the 400m Women’s event, Doreen Amata in the High Jump and even Orukpe Eraiyokan among others all give room for optimism that Nigeria will make some appreciable impacts at the Gold Coast.

Probable Gold Medals – 3

Basketball

1. Abdul Yahaya

2. Abdulwahab Yakubu

3. Azuoma Dike

4. Eli Dung

5. Godsgift Achiuwa

6. Ikechukwu Diogu

7. Musa Usman

8. Olalekan Olatunji

9. Prince Orizu

10. Uchechi Ofoegbu

11. Uchenna Iroegbu

12. Yakubu Istifanus

The men’s basketball team, D’Tigers is a largely experimental one with six home-based players and six foreign-based players, led by the experience of China-based Ikechukwu Diogu, who has a FIBA AfroBasket title under his belt. Grouped in Pool A with hosts, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, the Alex Nwora-led team might not get out of the group. The best result by the men’s team was fourth place at the 2006 tournament.

Boxing

1. Yakubu Istifanus

2. Adeola Soyoye

3. Ayisat Oriyomi

4. Itunu Oriola

5. Lukmon Lawal

6. Millicent Agboegbulem

7. Osita Umeh

8. Sikiru Fatai Ojo

9. Yetunde Odunuga

The boxers were camped at the National Stadium in Lagos and trained daily at the Brai Ayonote boxing gymnasium under the watchful eyes of coach former Olympian, Anthony Konyegwachie.

After the trials, four male and two female boxers (in different categories) were selected from an initial list of 32, that featured boxers from the Nigerian Army, the Civil Defence Corps, the Nigeria Police and other boxing clubs around the country.

Of the eight boxers selected, Yetunde Odununga (60kg) and Osita Umeh (69kg) both of the Nigerian Army were very impressive in camp and are strong medal hopefuls at the games.

On the downside, the Sports Ministry’s decision not to grant the Boxing Federation their request to travel with sparring partners for their training tours and the games proper might turn out to be an issue that would adversely affect preparations in Australia and the possible medal prospects.

Probable Gold Medals – 2

Artistic Gymnastics

1. Oke Fakiyesi

Rhythmic Gymnastics

1. Jade Faulkner


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