The world is again agog with diverse celebrations for the annual Olympic Day and Nigeria is by no means left out in celebrating the iconic day in Sports history.
Several Nigerian athletes home and abroad have been active on social media reliving their Olympic moments.
Olympic Day was introduced in 1948 to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games on 23 June 1894 at the Sorbonne in Paris.
The goal was to promote participation in sport across the globe regardless of age, gender or athletic ability.
While the older generation of Nigerian athletes in the mould of Innocent Egbunike relish their great achievements of the past; some of which has not been surpassed many years after, the current crop of athletes like Gloria Asunmu are confident of better performances as they countdown to the 2016 Rio Olympics which could be their last attempt at that stage.
As part of the celebrations for this year; PREMIUM TIMES makes a random pick of seven great Olympic Moments for Nigeria.
Chioma Ajunwa’s Long Jump gold
Currently an officer with the Nigeria Police, the history of Nigeria at the Olympics can never be complete without the mention of Ajunwa, who after various setbacks in her career, achieved fame when she became the first Nigerian athlete to win an Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Till date, she remains Nigeria’s only individual Olympic gold medallist.
The leap of 7.12metre in the Women’s Long Jump event which interestingly was her first try in the star-studded event was all Ajunwa needed to etch her name in the sands of history and she is forever remembered.
Dream Team football gold:
Nicknamed the Dream Team, the Nigeria U23 team then handled by Coach Jo Bonfere shocked the world to become the first black nation to win the prestigious football gold. After the amazing comeback against Brazil in a thrilling semi-final match that Papilo Kanu Nwankwo helped engineer, the Nigeria team went on to beat Argentina in the finals to complete their amazing run in the God’s Own country.
4x400m Sydney Gold:
Having literally run the race of his life, the efforts of Enefiok Udo-Obong, who at that time gave Nigeria the silver medal, gave Nigeria her first gold medal on the tracks in Olympic history. The American team which finished ahead of Nigeria in the race proper were found guilty of drug related offences and that made the International Olympic Committee strip them of the medal and hand it over to Nigeria. The wonderful quartet that won that priceless gold include Udo-Obong who ran the last leg, Clement Chukwu, Jude Monye and Sunday Bada. The duo of Nduka Awazie and Fidelis Gadzama also deserve a mention having played their parts in the heats before the final.
4×400m Los Angeles Bronze
Nigeria’s 1st global Relay medal, indeed the nation’s first ever medal in Athletics at the Olympics, came at the Los Angeles 1984 Games in the men’s 4×400m. The duo of Sunday Uti and Innocent Egbunike, who already conquered Africa, went to the world stage to prove their mettle.
The duo gave Nigeria heads-up with great display in the 1st and final legs respectively for the 4x400m Bronze-medal run, and were joined by Moses Ugbesien and Rotimi Peters on the 2nd & 3rd legs – their medal winning time of 2:59.32 was an African Record which would stand for the next 16 years.
The United States, has over the years, been a good hunting ground for Nigerian sports and the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles was no difference as Konyegwachie won Nigeria’s first ever silver medal in the men’s Featherweight (54–57 kg) category.
The Delta-State born boxer turned pro two years later after his exploits at the Olympic and won his first 15 fights prior to getting stopped by a journeyman in 1990. He retired after the bout at 15-1-0
Chika Chukwumerije Taekwondo Bronze:
Daring to succeed and winning an Olympic Medal where Nigeria was largely not seen as a force to reckon with is to say the least commendable. A classic case of focus and hard work was all that saw the son of the respected late lawmaker made his mark at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Although Chukwumerije narrowly lost to eventual silver-medal winner Alexandros Nikolaidis in the semi-finals of the +80kg event, the Nigerian star was rated amongst the best in his category.
4X100m Bronze Barcelona
Their faces have over the years become the Olympic symbol as the world watched how the quartet of Beatrice Utondu, Faith Idehen, Mary Onyali and Christy Opara-Thompson celebrated their Bronze medal in the women’s 4x100m at Barcelona ’92.
Indeed the ‘golden bronze’ as it was fondly referred to, was iconic as it was the first medal that any Nigerian woman won at the Olympics.
Over the last 20 years, Olympic Day has been associated with Olympic Day Runs all over the world. From 45 participating National Olympic Committees in the first edition in 1987, the numbers have grown to over 150 participating NOCs today.
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