Sports: Tale of woes for Nigeria in 2012

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Nigeria was part of the global sporting events in 2012, but the result pointed out to a dangerous trend as star names failed to lift the nation’s image. Blessing Okagbare and Chika Chukwumerije are the biggest names that shocked the nation.

IAAF World Indoor Championships, Istanbul (March 9-11)

Nigeria took part in the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

In the 60m male event, Peter Emelezie had a fair start, qualifying from the heat with a time of 6.85 to reach the semifinals. But he failed to move on even with a better time of 6.81. United States’ Justin Gatlin eventually won gold, while Jamaica’s Nesta Carter came second. Dwain Chambers of Great Britain won the bronze medal.

In the women’s 60m race, Gloria Asumnu braved the odds to reach the final. She came first in heat one and came third in the semifinal. In the final, Veronica Campbell-Brown of Jamaica won a clear winner with a time of 7.01, with Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure winning silver. US’s Tianna Madison won bronze as Nigeria finished in the sixth position.

Nigeria retains the African record in the 400m at the event set by the late Sunday Bada in 1997 but in 2012, Nigeria had no representative for the race won by Nery Brenes of Costa Rica. Demetrius Pinder of the Bahamas came second, while Chris Brown, also of the Bahamas, won the bronze medal.

In the women’s category of the 400m, Ajoke Odumosu attempted Charity Okpara’s African record of 50.73 set in Stuttgart, 1998, but she barely qualified for the semifinal after coming fourth in heat four while her quest ended in the round.

One of Nigeria’s strongholds in athletics is 4x400m relay but despite still holding the African record set in Lisbon 2001, the nation could not present representatives for the race in Turkey.

In the triple jump, Tosin Oke did not start in the male category, completing a woeful outing for Nigeria at the event.

London Olympics (July 27 – August 12)

The London 2012 Olympic Games featured 26 sports encompassing 39 disciplines.  Nigeria competed in its 15th appearance at the Olympics with the smallest delegation since the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

A total of 53 athletes, 30 men and 23 women, represented Nigeria in eight events (athletics, basketball, boxing, canoeing, table tennis, taekwondo, weightlifting and wrestling) in London. After the failure of the football teams, basketball was the only team event where Nigeria competed.

Nigeria also debuted in slalom canoeing, where UK-based Jonathan Akinyemi competed in the men’s K-1 event.

It is no news that despite almost N2bn spent on preparations and appearance at the event, Nigeria did not win a single medal in London, the first time since 1988.

But athletes like Segun Toriola, a table tennis player, could take consolation from being the oldest member of the team at 37 and being the only Nigeria Olympian to have taken part in six Games. Another table tennis player Olufunke Oshonaike was the nation’s oldest female athlete at the Games with five appearances.

Beijing Olympics medallist Chika Chukwumerije was the team’s captain, while another medallist from Beijing, Blessing Okagbare, was a star athlete who shouldered much of the nation’s hopes.

In the men’s 100m event, Ogho-Oghene Egwero, Peter Emelieze and Obinna Metu drew bye to the quarterfinals but they did not go beyond the stage. Selim Nurudeen, who reached the semifinal stage of the 110m hurdles, did not reach the medal zone.

Ajoke Odumosu came so close to picking a medal in the women’s category of the 400m hurdles, reaching the final but coming last in a race won by Natalya Antyukh of Russia.

Okagbare easily won her heat, coming first with a personal best time of 10.93secs, which was the second best in the heats. Things still looked good in the semifinal as she cruised to the final comfortably only to come last in the final, claiming injury, although she competed to the end as Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica won gold medal.

Painfully, the women’s 4×100 relay team of  Christy Udoh, Asumnu, Oludamola Osayomi and Okagbare finished in the fourth position behind US, Jamaica and Ukraine.

In boxing, the two boxers in the men’s category, Muideen Olalekan and Lukmon Lawal, did not make it to the medal zone, while Edith Ag-Okoye also lost in the women’s event.

Nigerian wrestlers performed badly too at the Games and surprisingly, Chukwumerije did not make it to the quarterfinal stage.

2012 Paralympic Games, London (August 29 – September 9)

Sports lovers in Nigeria will surely want to forget quickly the many failures recorded in the year 2012, but an unlikely group still inspired the generation.

At the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Nigeria won six gold, five silver and two bronze medals. They were the only reasons Nigerians smiled during the global athletic season, with Yakubu Adesokan winning gold in powerlifting. Ivory Nwokorie, Esther Oyema, Joy Onaolapo, Anozie Grace and Obijie Lovelyn also won gold medals in the events. Obichukwu Nwachukwu, Ulonnam Anthony, Nwajiofor Ifeanyi, Ejike Lucy and Oluwafemiayo Folashade won silver medals while Iyiazi Eucharia and Nneji Victoria won bronze medals.

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