Though Nigeria could not record any meaningful achievement in normal sports in the outgoing year, the country’s contingent to the London 2012 Paralympic Games however, wiped out tears streaming on the faces of sports-loving Nigerians as a result of the dismal showing of Nigerian athletes at international tourneys during the year.
The special athletes won a total of 13 medals, which included 6 gold, 5 silver and 2 bronze, with four world records, and also finished in the 22nd position in the world.
The 29 member team, which displayed a sterling performance at the London Games, broke four world records in powerlifting through Yakubu Adesokan, Esther Onyema, Joy Onoolapo and Folasade Oluwafiayo.
Though the National Sports Commission had boasted that the country would scoop medals at the London 2012 Olympic Games, but the boast could not yield anything as the country’s appearance was its worst outing in recent times.
That was the nation’s fifteenth appearance at the Olympics, except the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, because of the African boycott.
A total of 53 athletes, 30 men and 23 women, competed in 8 sports. Men’s basketball was the only team-based sport in which Nigeria had its representation in these Olympic games. Among the eight sports played by the athletes, Nigeria marked its official Olympic debut in slalom canoeing.
The Nigerian team featured two Olympic medalists from Beijing: Chika Chukwumerije, who served as the nation’s team captain, and long jumper Blessing Okagbare. Table tennis player Segun Toriola, the oldest member of the team, aged 37, became the first Nigerian athlete to compete in six Olympic games.
Toriola’s fellow sports player Olufunke Oshonaike, on the other hand, made her fifth Olympic appearance as the nation’s oldest and most experienced female athlete. Freestyle wrestler Sinivie Boltic was Nigeria’s first male flag bearer at the opening ceremony since 2000.
Nigeria, however, failed to win a single medal for the first time in Olympic history since 1988, after achieving poor athletic performance at these games.
Triple jumper Tosin Oke, the women’s sprint relay team led by Blessing Okagbare, and weightlifter Felix Ekpo qualified successfully for the final rounds of their respective events, but missed out of the medal standings.
Following the athletes’ disappointing performance, President Goodluck Jonathan “called for a complete overhaul of Nigerian sports administration”.
It is the same story in football as the six time African champions, the Super Falcons failed to qualify for the London Olympics. The team also finished fourth at the African Women Championship in Equatorial Guinea, which was their worst result at the continental championship.
On the continent, the four Nigeria’s representatives in this year’s Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) organised competitions could not put smiles on the faces of Nigerians as they were knocked out from the two competitions.
The duo of the Sunshine Stars of Akure and the Dolphins FC of Port Harcourt featured in the CAF Champions League while Heartland FC of Owerri and Warri Wolves represented the country in the CAF Confederation Cup.