Olympics: Sports minister ‘proud’, says ‘Nigeria’s 74th position best in 13 years’

Nigeria’s sports minister, Sunday Dare, says citizens of the country should be proud of the country for ranking 74th in the medals table for the just-concluded Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The minister, who described Nigeria’s athletes as ‘inspiring’, claimed that finishing 74th on the medals table is the country’s best performance in Olympics in 13 years.

The PUNCH reports that in Sydney 2004, Nigeria finished 68th with two bronze medals among 201 countries.

However, among 205 countries, the country finished 74th with one bronze and one silver medals.

While five athletes qualified for the final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, at least eights athletes from the Men’s 4 × 100m relay and Men’s 4 × 400m relay reached the final at Sydney 2004.

The Sydney finalists Deji Aliu, Aaron Egbele, Uchenna Emedolu, Olusoji Fasuba, Musa Audu, James Godday, Enefiok Udo-Obong, and Saul Weigopwa won the two bronze medals in their August 28, 2004 events.

While Ese Brume won the bronze for Nigeria, Blessing Obodururu secured the silver medal for Team Nigeria in Tokyo 2o20.

Brume recorded a 6.97 metres jump in the final of the event at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium to win her first Olympic medal and Nigeria’s first at this Games.

Oborududu had to settle for the silver medal in the women’s freestyle 68kg event on Tuesday in the Tokyo Olympics wrestling competition in Tokyo.

The medal was Nigeria’s first one ever in the wrestling sport since the country’s first-ever appearance at the Olympics in 1952.

Atlanta 1996: When Nigeria ‘ruled the world’

However, August 3rd 1996 would be etched forever in the memory of soccer-mad Nigerian fans who celebrated with glee the country’s historic first soccer gold medal win at the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.

During Atlanta’s event, Nigeria ranked 32nd with two gold, one silver and three bronze – six medals.

In athletes, Chioma Ajunwa brought gold in women’s Long Jump while another gold came from the men’s football team comprising Abiodun Obafemi, Augustine Okocha, Celestine Babayaro, Daniel Amokachi, Emmanuel Amuneke, Emmanuel Babayaro, Garba Lawal, Joseph Dosu, Nwankwo Kanu, Kingsley Obiekwu, Mobi Obaraku, Uche Okechukwu, Sunday Oliseh, Taribo West, Teslim Fatusi, Tijani Babangida, Victor Ikpeba, and Wilson Oruma.

The silver medallists were Falilat Ogunkoya, Bisi Afolabi, Fatima Yusuf and Charity Opara, who represented Nigeria in women’s 4×400 metres relay.

Again, Falilat Ogunkoya (Women’s 400 metres) alongside Mary Onyali(Women’s 200m), and Duncan Dokiwari (Boxing, Men’s Super Heavyweight) won bronze for Nigeria.

Nigeria’s minister proud despite 10 athletes disqualification, Okagbare’s drug test

Undaunted by the challenges, official negligence and embarrassment faced by Team Nigeria at the Olympics, the sports minister says the contingent consisting of over 60 athletes should be praised for the “positive performance”.

In a press statement titled, The minister, in a press statement titled, ‘On Nigeria’s participation at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics’, the minister said, “Not wanting to add to the public distraction, I have deliberately waited until the end of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games before making any observations regarding the various reports on Nigeria’s participation in the quadrennial games.

“This was out of respect for our athletes who had committed so much effort and made such considerable personal sacrifice in order to represent our nation as best as they could. Overall, we should be proud of Team Nigeria and the effort they made. The bottom line is that these games should always be about the athletes and the spirit of friendly competition and excellence the Olympics are meant to engender.

“Sadly, some people seem not to have embraced either the good cause of our national athletic pursuits or the collegial and noble spirit that the Olympics promote.

“The rancour and confusion some people seem intent on sowing are terribly out of place given the impressive performance of our team and good spirit with which they performed. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are now over, which means we can begin to honestly and objectively assess what was accomplished as well as what we must do to improve performance for future contests.

“Nigeria succeeded with two (2) medals – a silver in wrestling won by Blessing Oborodudu and a bronze in long jump won by Ese Brume. Their performances were inspiring for they affirmed we can and should compete at the highest levels across the full range of sports events. Yes, we had wished and worked for more medals. But we must also put things in perspective. The medal outcome at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics stands as Nigeria’s best result in the last 13 years.

“Though only five of the athletes reached finals, the minister claimed, “Moreover, the athletes of Team Nigeria did their nation proud. Many of them reached the finals of their respective sports and, competing with all they had, were in contention for medals until the final moment. Anyone who saw their efforts would have nothing but the utmost respect for them, their coaches and all the technical staff that made Tokyo possible.

“Team Nigeria placed 74th position on the final Olympic medal table among 205 participating countries, despite our small contingent to the games. We were 8th among 52 African countries that participated. Team Nigeria excelled in many areas that engender hope for greater success in the future.

“Nigeria had five Olympic finalists in 100 meters Hurdles Women, Short Put, Long jump, Wrestling and 100 meters men. Team Nigeria broke the 13 year old jinx of no medal in Long jump and 25 years of no finalist in the men’s 100 meters, and secured a medal in wrestling for the very first time. Overall, our performance was good and more importantly it is headed in the right direction.

“Team Nigeria went to Tokyo 2020 and competed against the best in the world. Two Olympics medals and a statistical performance that has a place in the history of our Olympic participation despite being one of our smallest contingents. We can perform even much better if we all hold onto the lessons learnt.”

PUNCH

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