*Igali: "This feat is the result of 10 years preparations coming to fruition. If anyone deserves to win a medal here Oborududu does"
After Blessing Oborududu defeated Battsetseg Soronzonbold of Mongolia 7-2 in the last four stage of the women's freestyle 68kg category of Tokyo Olympic yesterday, President of the Nigerian Wrestling Federation, Daniel Igali, admitted that the feat was the reward for hard work and ten years preparations.
Until yesterday, Team Nigeria had yet to get to the podium in any of the events. Now, a silver medal is guaranteed with the gold the icing on the cake.
Oborududu is scheduled to clash with USA's top seed, Tamyra Stock Mensah in the battle for the gold at midday (Nigerian time) today.
The American World champion overpowered Ukraine's Alla Cherkasova 10-4 in the first semi-final to set up the clash with Oborududu.
According to Igali who won wrestling gold medal for his adopted country Canada at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Oborududu deserves to win the gold medal of the freestyle 68kg event at Tokyo 2020.
"The results we are beginning to see at the Olympic level is about a decade of preparations coming to fruition. If anyone deserves to win a medal here, Blessing Oborududu does," observed the NWF President whose personal commitment and drive has given the sport a new meaning in Nigeria.
While pouring encomium on Oborududu in a NSSP WhatsApp platform of eminent Nigerians with bias for sports, Igali insisted that the wrestler is "By far one of the best, disciplined athletes I have ever groomed."
He recalled how he first met Oborududu at an inter-house competition where she lost that competition. " I discovered her at their inter-house sports competition. She lost in the finals, but I saw traits that I felt we could fine tune.
"As they say, the rest is now history. It's been over a decade of near misses. I am so happy for her, the coaches and the team," gushed Igali from Tokyo yesterday afternoon moments after the feat was attained .
He admitted to the final that getting to the final itself amounts to having the silver medal in the bag.
"I read somewhere about a guaranteed silver medal. While that in itself is a tremendous achievement, we are going for the big prize. Now let's go win an Olympic gold medal tomorrow!," stressed Igali who won Canada's first wrestling gold medal at the Olympic Games in Australia before returning home to take up the challenge of replicating his achievements in the sport in his fatherland.
The number 2 seed Oborududu will renew her rivalry with old foe Mensah today as they battle for the ultimate prize - gold medal.
They last met at the 2019 World Championships in Kazakhstan, with the American getting the better of Oborududu to win the gold.
The 32-year old Commonwealth champion Oborududu has become Nigeria's first Olympic wrestling medalist in history.
Oborududu who is 10-time African champion, on her way to the final, made light work of Elis Manolova in the round of 16, thrashing the Azerbaijani 13-2 via technical superiority, before securing a hard-fought 3-2 win against Meerim Zhumanazarova of Kyrgyzstan in the quarter-finals.
... You Are a Blessing to Nigeria, Sports Minister Tells Oborududu
Blessing Oborududu's feat of qualifying for the final of the women's freestyle 68kg category event of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has been described as a blessing that has wiped away the pains of the near misses in other events.
Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare said yesterday: "This is real Blessing to Nigeria. Thank you blessing for wiping away the pain of the near misses recorded in other events. Nigerians are proud of you."
Dare described Oborududu's display as "typical of the never say die Nigerian spirit."
The minister therefore urged her not to rest on her oars until the ultimate gold medal is won today.
"Keep the tempo going until we reach the ultimate which is the gold. Don't give up the fight until you rewrite Nigerian Olympics history with a gold medal in the kitty," pleaded an obviously relieved sports minister who is right there in Tokyo with the Nigerian contingent.
Other Nigerians still the race for medals in their various events include;
Odunayo Adekuoroye (57kg freestyle), Ese Brume (Women's long jump final) and Grace Nwokocha (women's 200m).