Today, Friday, July 23, at 12 Noon, Nigeria time, the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics officially kicks off.
Nigeria will be represented by 60 athletes across athletics, table tennis, wrestling, basketball, canoe sprint, gymnastics, rowing, and taekwondo. This team comprises the old, young, and the very young and we could also classify them as the probable medalists, the hopeful medalists, and the sight-seeing visitors.
The Probable Medals
In her 16 Olympic expeditions, Nigeria has won medals in athletics, boxing, wrestling, football, and taekwondo.
Football-both men and women teams – are absent from Tokyo and inexplicably replaced by the men and women’s basketball teams.
After three exhibition matches in Las Vegas, the D’Tigers, courtesy of two victories over the USA and Argentina, were given a power ranking of four. Even though they lost [scandalously] to Argentina, the team, coached by Mike Brown, has all it takes to at least get a bronze medal with a roster stacked with NBA players.
If they get the rub of the ball and their perimeter shooting stays strong, D’Tigers could win Africa’s first-ever medal in Basketball in Tokyo. The women’s team is not as buoyant as the men’s team, especially after two players- Nneka Ogwumike and Elizabeth Williams-were disallowed from wearing the green of Nigeria in Tokyo though with little luck in their group stage matches-they could also make a run for bronze.
In track and field, Nigeria’s hopes rest on two women-Blessing Okagbare and Tobi Amusan – in the 100m, 200m, and 100m hurdles.
Okagbare is ranked fifth in the world going to Tokyo and she ran her season’s best, 10.86, on July 6 at the Bregyo Athletic Center, Szekesfehervar in Hungary while posting 10.63 on July 17, though it was wind-assisted. In the 200m, WA ranks her seventh, which means she can get to the finals where anything can happen.
World Athletics also ranked Amusan fourth in the 100m hurdles but she believes she is ready to make the step up and claim a medal in Tokyo. Her season’s best time was at the National Training Center in Florida in January when she clocked 12.48s.
Divine Oduduru has a slight chance in the 200m because of the 19.88s he posted in April at the Hodges Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida though he can boast of having run the 100m in 9.86s 2019.
Another woman in the contingent-they number 36 to 24 men- Odunayo Adekuoroye, is almost a medal surety, and she proclaimed her top credentials at the Poland Open in June when she defeated Helen Maroulis of the United States, the reigning Olympic champion in the 57kg division.
She then beat 2016 silver medalist, Valeria Koblova, before claiming the title when her Belarusian opponent, Iryna Kurachkina, pulled out. If everything goes to plan for the 27-year-old, she could celebrate a first-ever wrestling gold medal in wrestling in Tokyo.
Elizabeth Anyanancho, the 21-year-old returns Nigerian female taekwondo to the Olympics for the first time in 16 years and she is coached by an Olympic medalist in Chika Chukwumerije.
Can Omotayo Olajide crack the medals podium? From being ranked 1,667 in 2010 to going for the Olympics 94th in the world, Olajide is not afraid to lose, and that gives him the mental toughness to be hopeful in Tokyo. “You have to attend tournaments, even if you lose 100 times don’t worry. One match can change your life. One breakthrough can change your life,” Olajide told the Olympics Channel.
Taking nothing away from their prowess and because they are already winners for having qualified to be in Tokyo, both Bello Ayomide and Esther Toko will do very well to get past the first round in rowing and canoeing. Age is definitely on their side and they will only get better with the Tokyo experience.
The gymnast, Uche Eke; the swimmer Abiola Ogunbanwo and the badminton players- Godwin Olofua, Anuoluwapo Juwon Opeyori, and Dorcas Ajoke Adesokan, will all try their best but none of these athletes is rated in the top-20 of their discipline in Tokyo.
Nigeria’s record at all her Olympics appearances is three gold medals, 10 silver medals, and 12 bronze medals. Can the country add to this collection in Tokyo?
The wait is over. Let the Games begin!
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...