Team Nigeria’s Medal Chances In Rio | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Team Nigeria’s Medal Chances In Rio

Team Nigeria
Posted: Jul 30, 2016 at 1:52 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chibuike Chukwu

With six days to the commencement of the Rio Olympics, there is every reason to ask whether Team Nigeria stands any medal chance at the Gamess.
Just like in London, Nigeria will be competing in eight events, which are football (men), basketball, canoeing, table tennis, athletics and wrestling.
Team Nigeria is made up of 49 male and 29 female athletes, bringing the total number of Nigerian athletes that will compete for honours in Brazil to 78.
But for team sports like football and basketball, track and field event contributes the highest number of sportsmen and women, with 21 athletes for the event for Nigeria.
Nigeria’s comparative advantage for medals has always been in athletics, wrestling, boxing and weightlifting. Incidentally, but for track and field, and wrestling, Nigeria is going to the Rio Games with an athlete each in boxing and weightlifting.
This development places a huge doubt on the country’s chances of winning medal at the Games.
For instance, Okagbare, during an interview with Premium Times recently, admitted that only something in the region of 10.5 seconds can win 100 metres in the Rio Games. But she won her seventh 100m Nigerian title in Sapele two weeks ago in 11.06 seconds. She must do more than enough to be at the podium.
She won the 200m in Sapele in 22.78secs, far behind an Olympics podium time of 21.34 seconds. That is the current world record set by United States’ Florence Griffits.
In boxing super heavyweight category, Efe Ajagba will come up against tested pugilists like defending champions, Nigerian-born British pugilist, Anthony Joshua, who won the 2012 Games, defeating Italian Roberto Cammarelle on unanimous points’ decision. But it is still debatable if the Briton will defend his crown after emerging World Heavyweight Champion.
Such tested boxers as Croatian Filip Hrgovic, Erik Pfeifer, Lenier Pero of Cuba and Italian Guido Vianello, among others, will grace the Games. Some of these boxers have been training in the United States with state-of-the-art facilities. Ajagba may find the going tougher than expected, given that he is still presently training at the National Stadium in Lagos.
Even at that, with only Ajagba for Rio Games, what is the hope of the country in the boxing event?
This is just some of the sore points of Team Nigeria going to the Rio Olympic Games. Stakeholders are of the view that there might not be much expectations from Team Nigeria.
Apart from the three events mentioned and the challenges of our athletes facing the best, there is also the issue of finance. For example, various sporting Federations complained of lack of funds earlier in the year, leading to several athletes not making it to their various qualifiers. Consequently, Team Nigeria is depleted following athletes’ withdrawal from qualifiers as a result of paucity of funds.
In table tennis, it was the same story. In March, for example, the Nigerian Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) could not finance the nation’s team to the ITTF World Championship in Malaysia, which also served as qualifying tournament for the Rio Olympic Game. The male players sponsored themselves to the championship, while their female counterparts (with the exception of Funke Oshonaike who paid her way) did not attend because they could not afford the cost.
In weightlifting, failure of Oluwatoyin Adesami, who will compete in 107kg, will mean failure in this very sport that usually place the country on the global map.
In the London Games, the country paraded two weightlifters. Felix Ekpo in Men’s 77kg and Mariam Usman in Women’s +75kg and still ended the Games without a medal.
The country will, therefore, be heading to the Games with fewer athletes compared to expectations and dimmed medal prospects. Even at that, the other events, apart from football, do not genuinely present any medal hope for the country.
Apart from the above scenario, the pessimism in some quarters is also founded on the premise that just days to the biggest sporting gathering in the world, a research by Independent revealed ignorance of so many Nigerians to the event, talk less of the country’s preparedness to bury the ghost of London Games.
With the development, even the most incurable optimists of Nigeria will readily attest to the poor preparedness of Team Nigeria to the Rio Olympic Games, which starts on Thursday, July 5.
Incidentally, even at London Olympics, the problem was not dearth of sportsmen and women but inadequate preparation. Today, Okagbare has shown consistency on the track, but her time returns fall short of medal prospect. This is not forgetting Ese Brume, who has been training repeatedly to replicate Chioma Ajunwa’s long jump feat of Atlanta 96 Games.
There is also the U-23 team, which is also a medal prospect.
On account of all these, there is a huge gap in the expectations of Nigerians for medals. But Nigeria’s first Olympics gold medal winner, Chioma Ajunwa, still hopes that Team Nigeria can spring surprise in the midst of poor preparations.
“Anything is possible. See, right from time, poor preparation has always been the bane. But I have this confidence that the contingent will come back with something. Let us keep praying for them,” she said.
Former track queen, Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, agreed with Ajunwa, but that only Okagbare that may spring surprise if in the right frame of mind.
“Despite the odds, I see Team Nigeria not completely failing. But I have my bet on Okagbare surprising us all with a medal if she approaches her events, especially the 200m, with a good frame of mind and the right mentality.
“Truth is, preparation is poor. It was not this bad in our time,” she said.
Despite going to Rio with seven wrestlers, Daniel Igali, president of the Wrestling Federation, would not stick out his neck on medal prospect due to poor preparation.
“Not being able to follow our initial plans was our problem, and if that is to be considered, the country can as well say goodbye to winning medals.”
“We’ll do our best in Brazil,” he said.
Also speaking ahead of the Games, Segun Toriola, rued the poor preparation, saying that it has not been this bad.