Ediale Kingsley monitors the show of bravery and brilliance displayed by Nigeria’s second team at the Rio Olympics. It’s been a breath of grace as Nigerians bask in the blaze of glory and pride exhibited by the Paralympians.
AS this year’s Rio 2016 Paralympics winds off, Nigeria’s paralympians will be leaving Rio de Janeiro in a blaze of glory.This is not surprising because even as Nigeria’s performances at the Paralympic Games have always been uplifting, this year’s event has seen the athletes breaking more records than ever; those set by others and even by themselves.In Rio, Team Nigeria made their intentions clear from the onset as on Day Two of the Rio Games, Nigeria celebrated a gold and silver medal when Roland Ezuruike provided the golden moment, winning the 54Kg power lifting event in an astonishing manner.Earlier on same day Latifat Tijani won silver medal when she lifted 106kg in the 45kg category to place second behind China’s Dandan Hu delivering the country’s medal.From then on, it was medals and world records galore for Nigeria as shot putter, Lauritta Onye smashed the world record with her fourth round 8.40 throw.
The 32 year-old athlete dominated the event to win gold, giving Nigeria its first Track and Field medal.Following Onye’s suit was power-lifter, Josephine Orji, who also shattered the world record of the women’s -+86kg power-lifting event with a lift of 154kg to win the gold medal.
Another world record breaker was Flora Ugwunwa who won the Women’s Javelin Throw event. With a throw of 20.25m, Ugwunwa set a new world record to beat Tunisia’s Hania Aidi and South Africa’s Ntombizanele Situ to second and third places respectively.Team Nigeria’s captain, Lucy Ejike, wasn’t left out as she broke the Paralympics and world record three successive times, to win the women’s -61kg event in power-lifting. Her successful attempt at 136.kg set a new Paralympic and world record.
Her teammate Bose Omolayo also joined the party as she eclipsed her own world record and set a new one of 138kg to win gold medal.Other impressive performers include Paul Kehinde, who gave Nigeria her second gold medal of the Games in the -65kg men’s category, lifting 218kg to beat his rivals to the gold medal.Not forgetting Latifat Tijani that won silver in the women’s power-lifting -45kg and also Esther Oyema who added another silver medal in the women’s power-lifting -55kg category.
The outstanding performances of the Paralympians have therefore earned them accolades from Nigerians who believe they deserve more than what they are usually given by the sports authorities.Even before the end of the games, the Nigerian Sports Editors Guild commended the athletes and went further to urge the government to pay more attention to the special athletes who have remained the country’s saving grace at international competitions.In a communiqué signed by the Guild of Sports Editors president, Mr. Tony Ubani, the body described the team’s feat as “remarkable and encouraging in these difficult times, especially when it is considered that they had little or no motivation from those who were supposed to prepare them for the competition.”
“It is instructive that when Nigerians are reeling from the effects of the current economic recession ravaging the country, a group of special athletes are in far away Rio de Janeiro, Brazil showing the whole world that we can rise above our adversity to rub shoulders with the best in the world in any endeavour. “We, therefore, urge the Federal Government, especially the principal officers of the Sports Ministry, to without delay show that Nigeria cares for them. “We also implore President Muhammadu Buhari to adequately reward these heroes and ensure Nigeria uses their success story to re-awaken the can do spirit of Nigerians in this harsh economic climate”.
And a member of Nigeria’s delegation to three Olympic Games and former Secretary General of the then Nigeria Football Association, Alhaji Ahmed Sani Toro said he is not surprised by the team’s superb outing adding that he was confident the team would do well in Rio.“Like I always say, Nigeria is blessed with massive and abundance of talents. All we need to do is to learn how to channel those talents into world beaters. I am proud of the Paralympic Team and they have proved to the world how good they are,” he said.
For those who have been following the performance of the Nigerian paralympians beginning from Barcelona 1992, their feat in Rio is not a surprise. For such people, Rio performance of Nigerian Paralympians is not an accidental discharge but deliberate planning and careful execution.Although there are 28 events that have featured over the years in the Paralympic Games, Team Nigeria has consistently stuck to three (Table-tennis, Athletics and Power-lifting) which are their areas of comparative advantage.The general feeling is that the time has come for Team Nigeria to increase the number of events so as to increase their chances of winning more medals at the next Paralympics in 2010. It is an open secret that powerlifting has remained Team Nigerian’s major strength.
This is an obvious fact as seen at the Rio Olympics. Powerlifting contributed six gold medals to the eight won so far by the team. The remaining two gold medals are from track and field.
Nigerian sports pundits are of the view that there is every need to reduce the pressure on powerlifting as they say it makes no sense for all eggs to be carried in one basket. Indeed Team Nigeria’s outing in Rio has surpassed their previous outings. As at the time of press, the paralympians had won eight gold, two silver and two bronze medals to place tenth on the overall medals table. As usual Team Nigeria will be returning home as the best African nation at the Rio 2016 Paralympics.