Rio 2016 Olympics: Nigeria’s Golden Moments
The world is again agog for the Rio 2016 Olympics, to say it is the greatest sports spectacle on planet earth would be an understatement. Over 150 nations of the world gathered under one roof, the friendships, the tears, the competition, the laughters and the moments of glory as the winners take to the podium to receive the medals whilst more than one billion spectators on television, radio and the internet watches, it such a huge spectacle. Africa and Nigeria is not left out, I remember those days, we watch the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games and it’s a time when you get to know the name of some countries that you’ve never heard of, some like the USA and then USSR parading huge contingents whilst some countries were represented by just 2 people but in all, it presented a very beautiful platform for friendship and I guess, the objective of the Olympics to foster harmony and peace in the world gets realized on this podium.
Nigeria first participated in the Olympic Games in 1952, and has sent athletes to compete in every Summer Olympic Games since then, except for the boycotted 1976 Summer Olympics. Nigerian athletes have won a total of 23 medals, mostly in athletics and boxing. The national football team won the gold medal in 1996. In 2008, following the International Olympic Committee’s decision to strip the American 4 x 400 metre relay team of their medals after Antonio Pettigrew confessed to using performance-enhancing drugs, their Nigerian rivals were awarded the gold medal. Nigeria also won a medal in the heavyweight division of taekwondo at the 1992 Summer Olympics; As the whole world counts down to this years Olympic Games tagged Rio 2016, we relive some special Olympic moments by several Nigerian athletes
Bronze Nojim Maiyegun Japan 1964 Tokyo, Boxing, Men’s light middleweight
Perhaps for me, the gauntlet marker, Nojim Maiyegun stunned the world when a man from Nigeria won the first individual medal for Nigeria at the Tokyo 1964 Olympics, Maiyegun won the Bronze Medal in the men’s light middleweight category and laid a foundation for Nigerian boxers to excel in the boxing event of the Olympics. Boxing, since then became one of Nigeria’s brightest medal hopes at the Olympics and other world sporting events.
4×400m Los Angeles Bronze
This event is one I remember with nostalgia, the quartet of Sunday Uti, Moses Ugbesien, Rotimi Peters and Innocent Egbunike gave Nigeria her first global Relay medal, indeed the nation’s first ever medal in Athletics at the Olympics, in the men’s 4×400m. Their medal winning time of 2:59.32 was an African Record which would stand for the next 16 years.
Chioma Ajunwa’s Long Jump Gold
A moment in time when the hands of the clock stood still, Chioma Ajunwa’s solitary jum to Glory was a show stopper. Most intriguing was the fact that Chioma had just came back from a four year ban for testing positive to banned drug, the whole world watched as the Policewoman from Nigeria leapt into the air like the real falcon to land 7.12meters in the women’s long jump and etched her nasme in the sands of time. Its still a jump that motivates!
Dream Team football Gold: Atlanta 96
Nicknamed the Dream Team, the Nigeria U23 team then handled by Coach Jo Bonfere shocked the world to become the first black nation to win the prestigious football gold. Skippered by the mercurial Kanu ‘Papillo’ Nwakwo with supporting casts that included the midfield magician JayJay Okocha, multitalented Garba Lawal, Defence Marshall Taribo West et al, Nigeria made mince meat of great sides like Brazil and Argentina against all odds to clinch the Gold medal and made history as the first African nation to achieved such feat.
4x400m Sydney Gold:
Having literally run the race of his life, the efforts of Enefiok Udo-Obong, who at that time gave Nigeria the silver medal, gave Nigeria her first gold medal on the tracks in Olympic history. The American team which finished ahead of Nigeria in the race proper were found guilty of drug related offences and that made the International Olympic Committee strip them of the medal and hand it over to Nigeria. The wonderful quartet that won that priceless gold include Udo-Obong who ran the last leg, Clement Chukwu, Jude Monye and Sunday Bada. The duo of Nduka Awazie and Fidelis Gadzama also deserve a mention having played their parts in the heats before the final.
Chika Chukwumerije Taekwondo Bronze:
Daring to succeed and winning an Olympic Medal where Nigeria was largely not seen as a force to reckon with is to say the least commendable. A classic case of focus and hard work was all that saw the son of the respected late lawmaker made his mark at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Although Chukwumerije narrowly lost to eventual silver-medal winner Alexandros Nikolaidis in the semi-finals of the +80kg event, the Nigerian star was rated amongst the best in his category.
4X100m Bronze Barcelona
Their faces have over the years become the Olympic symbol as the world watched how the quartet of Beatrice Utondu, Faith Idehen, Mary Onyali and Christy Opara-Thompson celebrated their Bronze medal in the women’s 4x100m at Barcelona ’92. Indeed the ‘golden bronze’ as it was fondly referred to, was iconic as it was the first medal that any Nigerian woman won at the Olympics.