Leadership (Abuja)

4 August 2012

Nigeria: Olympics - Team Nigeria and Looming Flop

The results coming out of the ongoing London 2012 Olympic Games in UK suggest that things are not going well for Team Nigeria at the quadrennial world championships.

With more than a week into the championship and some countries already counting their medals collection, the most populous black nation is yet to get its name registered on the medal table.

The worst of it is that, there is no indication that the African giant which only managed to finish third at the last All African games in Maputo, Mozambique will make any meaningful impact at this year's Games.

With much excitement and promise going into the games, Nigerian contingent were badly hit from the start of the game with the country's representatives in table tennis event all losing out in the preliminary stage. Nigerian women table tennis players, Funke Oshonaike and Edem Offiong first kissed dust and say goodbye to the London Games.

Oshonaike with an intimidating record of her fifth appearance at the quadrennial multi-sports fiesta and against all expectations failed to click and got bundled out of the Women Singles event. Segun Toriola compounded the woes of Team Nigeria in table tennis event when against all expectations, lost 4-1 to Swedish Persson Jorgen in his second outing at the London 2012 Table Tennis event.

Toriola is one of the athletes in the London Olympic Games making his sixth appearance in the world champion. It is an incredible record which alone would have sent shivers down the spine of his opponents. But such much experience, he allowed his young opponent to flog him 4-1.

Nigeria's woe continue as the Team Nigeria's remaining table tennis player, Quadri Aruna, three days into the London games, crashed out of the competition. Aruna lost 2-4 in his second round game to Turkey's Bora Vang at the ExCel-North Arena 1, in spite of winning the first two games of the fixture. Aruna, 23, who drew bye into the first round where he beat Carlos Machado of Spain 4-2 on Saturday, had carried Nigeria's hope of remaining in the event on his shoulders.

The worst of the unending woe of the Nigerian contingents in the London Games came when the country's first-ever Olympic Games competitor in the canoeing event, Jonathan Akinyemi, failed to live up to all media hype ascribed to him. The London-based athlete, who was the event's lowest-ranked entrant at 130 placed 20th in a field of 22 competitors after the first two runs to drop out of the chase for medals.

Togo's Benjamin Boukpeti who was a bronze medallist at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 fared better than Akinyemi, as he escaped dropping out of the contest with a time of 90.52 for 10th place. Speaking after the event, the 23 year old athlete born to Nigerian father by British mother, was disappointed with his performance. "I tried to see how I could manage myself but it did not work. It's very painful and I'm sad."

Also in boxing, the team continued its lacklustre outing, when one of their boxers, Lukmon Lawal lost his round of 16 Light Heavyweight bout 19-7 points to Ihab Almatbouli of Jordan. The lone Jordanian boxer jumped out to an early lead before dominating in the rounds two and three of the bout.

Lawal, who had promised to do Nigeria proud in London, opened up carelessly, as his opponent punched him out with superb jabs, courtesy of a right hand and left hook.

Before Lawal's exit, his boxing compatriot, Akanji Muideen had also lost out. Despite the flop of Team Nigeria in London, Minister of Sports Bolaji Abdullahi, is confident that some members of the team will still win medals.

Abdullahi spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, in London against the backdrop of the early defeats of two boxers and the entire table tennis team, said the defeats is not a reflection of Nigerian team's preparation for the games. "Perhaps the most important achievement coming to this competition is that all of us are on the page unlike in the past nobody is quarrelling, nobody is fighting with anybody.

"You have not heard that the NSC and NOC, that everybody is fighting and so all of us are on the same page. You can see the federation here. I think that is a major achievement and that will form the basis for other things that will come. We have tried very hard, we have prepared very hard, we've had the best preparations going into a major tournament like this.

"So, it is my hope that our preparation will be good enough to take us a step forward from our previous performance. I am confident that things will go well in the end. I have reasons to believe we are going to win medals.

"But if we don't win medals we would have learnt important lessons on why we didn't win medals because I have had opportunities to meet so many ministers of sports from different parts of the world.

"I have had the opportunity to discuss with them on what they are doing and how they are doing it. And let me tell Nigerians something; the last reception I attended, which was organised by the minister in Great Britain, so many sports ministers of countries in West Africa were asking for help from Nigeria," Abdullahi said.

The only good news coming out of the London games on side of team Nigeria was the D'Tigers triumph over African champion, Tunisia 60-56 points in the men's basketball opening match. But the team failed ignite their arsenal against Lithuania.

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