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todayAugust 17, 2022

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The success at the Birmingham Games is a wake-up call for more investment in sports

The recent 22nd Commonwealth Games ended in Birmingham, United Kingdom, with fanfare after top level competitions involving 6, 500 athletes and 280 medal events. For Team Nigeria, it was our country’s best ever outing since we started participating in what was formerly called the British Empire Games in Auckland, New Zealand in 1950 when Joshua Majekodunmi won the first lone high jump silver medal. In Birmingham, Nigeria won 12 gold, nine silver and 14 bronze medals to finish overall seventh position and as Africa’s top performer.  

With just 93 athletes (41 men and 52 women) competing in seven sports, namely, athletics, boxing, judo, para powerlifting, table tennis, weightlifting and wrestling, Team Nigeria surpassed her previous best outing which was at the 1994 edition in Canada with 11 gold, 13 silver and 13 bronze medals. At Birmingham, Nigeria’s 100m hurdles world record holder, Oluwatobiloba Amusan won the most medals (two gold in 100m Women’s Hurdle and 4x100m Relay). Other gold medalists include Favour Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma, Grace Nwokocha (4x100m Relay); Miesinnei Mercy Genesis (50 kg), Blessing Oborududu (57 kg) and Odunayo Adekuoroye (57kg) all in women’s Freestyle wrestling. Adijat Adenike Olarinoye (55kg) and Rafiatu Folashade Lawal (59kg) also harvested gold medals in Women’s weightlifting. Folashade Oluwafemiayo (women’s heavyweight Para Powerlifting), Eucharia Iyiazi, (women’s shot put), Chioma Onyekwere and Goodness Nwachukwu (women’s Discus throw) and Ese Brume (women’s Long jump) complete the list of the women that won gold medals for the country. 

We must commend the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare for the feat. Apparently having learnt lessons from Team Nigeria’s performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the 2020 Paralympic Games and the World Athletics U20 Championships in Kenya, the ministry had identified areas of comparative advantage for the athletes. By deciding that only the sports where we have athletes competing among the top 10 in the world could guarantee podium finishes and focusing on them, it was easy for our country to make appreciable showing in Birmingham. 

Motivating these athletes was also a major factor. State governments, corporate bodies and well-spirited, wealthy Nigerians were encouraged to provide funds to help athletes with training, travels, payment of coaches, insurance, etc. Some other forms of assistance were also facilitated by the minister in areas of health insurance, admissions and scholarships. We hope all these will continue.


However, one noticeable feature of Team Nigeria’s outing in Birmingham was that all the 12 gold medals were won by our female athletes. It is worrisome that our male athletes have taken to playing second fiddle role. Since after the exit of the generation of the Ezinwa brothers (Davidson and Osmond), Olapade Adeniken, Francis Obikwelu, Deji Aliu, Sunday Bada and a few others, Nigeria’s male athletes have been unable to find their feet in global competitions. We hope the emergence of Udodi Onwuzurike, Favour Ashe, Alaba Akintola and Raymond Ekewvo who won a bronze medal in the men’s 4 x100 relay, will ginger a rebirth.  

The same applies to the other sports federations like boxing, weightlifting, table tennis and other combat sports where Nigeria used to be a major force in the Commonwealth. Although Edidiong Umoafia won a bronze in men’s 67kg of the weightlifting event in Birmingham, it was far from what it used to be for Nigerian lifters. In table tennis, the Quadri Aruna-led men’s team could not go beyond the semi-finals. It was also sad that the few boxers we took to the Games failed to earn any medal. This must be a wake-up call for those managing the men’s sports.  

As we therefore salute all the brilliant athletes who made Nigeria proud in Birmingham, we must continue to nurture the abundance of talents that we have in our country.  

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