Who are Nigeria’s medal hopeful and how did our football teams miss out?
On Friday, July 23, 2021, Team Nigeria paraded the Tokyo Olympic Games opening ceremony to kick off their participation officially.
Since Nigeria’s debut at the 1952 Olympics, Nigerian athletes have appeared in every edition of the Games, except for the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal because of the African boycott.
This year, 60 athletes will represent Team Nigeria at the Games across 10 sports-athletics, basketball, badminton, canoe, gymnastics, table tennis, swimming, rowing, wrestling and taekwondo.
But there is however less buzz around this year’s Games from a Nigerian perspective after both Nigeria’s team failed to qualify.
Nigeria got their most memorable moments in Olympic history in football when the Kanu Nwankwo-led Dream Team went all the way to win Gold at the 1996 Olympic Games.
But at this year’s Olympics, Nigeria will have no football representative.
Led by Imama Amapakabo, Nigeria’s U23 side failed to reach the semifinal of the 2019 U23 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
With the first three sides in the tournament to represent Africa in the men’s football event of the Olympics, Nigeria failed to reach the semifinals in Egypt.
The Super Falcons could only make it to the third round of the qualifiers for women’s football, where they crashed out to Côte d’Ivoire on away goal rule.
With no football, the buzz around the Olympics has come from basketball following D’Tigers‘ impressive exhibition games.
Nigeria’s men senior basketball team beat the number one and four teams globally, the United States of America and Argentina, in exhibition games.
However, it will be too optimistic to expect any medal from the squad with heavyweights like the United States, Argentina, Serbia, etc., competing at the Games.
D’Tigress, Nigeria’s women’s basketball team, will also compete at the Olympics and will face Japan, France and the United States.
Long jumper Ese Brume and wrestler Odunayo Adekuoroye are Nigeria’s biggest medal prospects at the Games.
Brume and Adekuroye have been in great form ahead of the Olympics.
Brume, a bronze medalist at the 2019 World Championships, leapt 7.17m in May to set the World Lead and break Ajunwa’s Olympics gold-winning African long jump record.
Adekuoroye is also the Number one ranked wrestler in the world in the women’s 57kg category.
The 27-year-old won a gold medal at the Poland Ranking series in June, and she is likely to face the same wrestlers at the Olympics.
With Blessing Okagbare, who has an Olympic silver medal, Nigeria has another hope of a podium finish in athletics.
Okagbare will be competing in the women’s 100m, 200m and 4x100m. In the men’s 100m and 200m, there is also the popular Divine Oduduru.
For the first time, Nigeria will have an athlete, Uche Eke, competing in the Games’ Gymnastics. Born in the United States, Eke chose to represent Nigeria and won a bronze medal at the 2021 African Gymnastic Championships in Cairo to qualify for the Olympics.
Also, for the first time, Nigeria will compete in Canoeing Sprint with Ayomide Emmanuel Bello, who qualified by winning a gold medal at the 2019 African Games in Rabat, Morocco.
All eyes will also be on tennis where Nigeria has veteran Funke Oshonaike competing in her seventh Games, making the first African woman to achieve the feat.
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