By Deji Elumoye
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has charged Nigeria’s team to the forthcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan to repeat the feats performed by the nation’s Olympic athletes in Atlanta, United States and Sydney, Australia in 1996 and 2000 respectively.
Osinbajo, who spoke Monday at the State House, Abuja, while unveiling the Team Nigeria Olympics kit/equipment ahead of the contingents’ departure for Tokyo, Japan on July 13, 2021, urged the team to replicate the performances of past Nigerian Olympians, noting that: “You stand on the shoulders of giants.”
He recalled the exploits of past Nigerian teams, telling the 2021 athletes: “You will also carry with you the encouragement of the great exploits of Nigerian Olympians before you.”
The vice-president reminded the team of “such legends as Chioma Ajunwa who won the gold medal at the 1996 Olympics for the long jump and became the first black African woman to win an Olympic gold medal in a field event”.
“The Super Eagles in 1996 who won the gold medal for football; that was the team that had the greats; Augustine Okocha, Celestine Babayaro, Daniel Amokachi (who was present at the event), Sunday Oliseh, Taribo West, Kanu Nwankwo, Abiodun Obafemi, Emmanuel Amuneke, Emmanuel Babayaro, Garba Lawal, Joseph Dosu, Kingsley Obiekwu, Mobi Obaraku, Uche Okechukwu, Teslim Fatusi, Tijani Babangida, Victor Ikpeba, and Wilson Oruma. That was the year we defeated the world’s best footballing nations — Brazil and Argentina — and we all held our heads high,” Osinbajo said.
He further said: “In 2000, in Sydney again we beat the best in the world. We won the gold in 4×400 meters relay after the American team was disqualified for using performance-enhancing drugs. Our team then was Clement Chukwu, the late Sunday Bada, Enefiok Udo-Ubong, Jude Monye, and two other members of the team, Fidelis Gadzama and Nduka Awazie.
“And for anyone who thinks we are joking, maybe they haven’t seen our exhibition basketball game on Saturday with the USA team, especially that amazing block by Precious Achiuwa against KD – Kevin Durant, who is probably the best player in the NBA right now. So Precious, you are the real MVP!
“You stand on the shoulders of giants and with the quality and intensity of training you have received and your exploits during the qualification series for the Olympic Games, I am confident that by God’s grace, you will again make history and beat the best in the world.”
The vice-president urged the team to promote the Olympian ideals, saying: “Olympics is about fair play, honesty, teamwork, respect and friendship. I trust that you will, as worthy ambassadors of Nigeria, represent our nation excellently.
“Fair play clearly enjoins every athlete not to use any prohibited substances or to cheat in any way. Half of the joy and satisfaction of victory is that it was won fairly.
“Everyone of you participating in the games is opening a page in history for yourself, your families, your community, and the nation.”
Osinbajo assured the team of the prayers and support of all Nigerians as they compete with athletes from other nations.
His words: “Your performance at the games will inscribe your names in national and world sporting history. You carry the hopes and aspirations of millions as you compete in Tokyo. But you will in this endeavour, have the assurance of the prayers and best wishes of all Nigerians.”
While commending the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, for coordinating the various sporting Federations in preparation for the Games, the vice-president urged the athletes to make good use of facilities at its training ground in the city of Kizarazu to put themselves in proper shape ahead of the Games.
He urged the team to continue to observe all COVID-19 protocols and to strictly adhere to the IOC Playbook in order to safeguard their health and those of others around them.
Speaking earlier, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Dare, said the athletes were ready to do the country proud and presented to the vice-president, the made-in-Nigeria kits for the Nigerian contingent.
“I am happy to announce today that the complete kit for Team Nigeria to the Tokyo 2020 Games was produced with a heavy dose of local content. We thank AFA Sports, Africa For Africa, a local sports equipment manufacturing company for delivering on the production of uniforms for Team Nigeria. This is a veritable testament and commitment of the Buhari administration to support and grow local content and industry in all sectors of the Nigerian economy,” Dare said.
Also speaking, the President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), Habu Gumel, thanked the president and the vice-president for honouring Team Nigeria and assured them that the contingent will not disappoint the country.
“I am happy to inform Mr. President that all the 15 athletes on Olympic scholarships qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games. Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, which slowed down the training momentum for the Games, we are still optimistic that the crop of Nigerian qualified athletes will do our nation proud at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
One highpoint of the occasion was the formal handover of Team Nigeria to the Nigeria Olympic Committee by the vice-president and the Sports Minister, and the unveiling of the official outfit and kit of the team.
Odunayo Adeokoroye, who spoke on behalf of the athletes, assured the vice-president that the contingent is made up of disciplined athletes who will make the nation proud in its outing.
In all, a total of 58 athletes will be competing for glory in the Olympic Games and 22 athletes for the Paralympic Games, respectively.
Twenty-three coaches are to represent the country at the Games, in the following nine sports Athletics – 18 (6 males and 12 females), Basketball – 24 (12 males and 12 females), Badminton – 3 (1 male and 2 females), Canoeing – 1 (1 female) and Gymnastics – 1 (1 male).
Others are Rowing – 1 (1 female), Table Tennis – 4 (2 males and 2 females), Taekwondo – 1 (1 female) and Wrestling – 5 (1 male, 4 females).
The Team Nigeria is comprised of Athletics: Oduduru Divine – Men’s 100m & 200m, Adegoke Enoch – Men’s 100m, Usheoritse Itsekiri – Men’s 100m, Enekwechi Chukwuebuka – Men’s Shotput, Okagbare Blessing – Women’s 100m & 200m, 4 x 100m Relay, Nwokocha Grace – Women’s 100m & 200m, 4 x 100m Relay, Amusan Tobi – Women’s 100m Hurdles, Ofili Favour – Women’s 200m, 4 x 100m Relay, Usoro Ruth – Women’s Long Jump & Triple Jump and Brume Ese – Women’s Long Jump.
Others are Echikunwoke Annette – Women’s Hammer Throw, George Patience – Women’s 400m, 4 x 400m Relay Mixed, Chukwuma Rosemary – Women’s 100m, 4 x 100m Rela and Onyekwere Chioma – Women’s Discus Throw.
The Mixed 4 x 400 relay team are: Uko Imaobong Nse – 4 x 400m Relay, Nathaniel Samson – 4 x 400m Relay, Okezie Chidi – 4 x 400m Relay and George Patience – 4 x 400m Relay.
The Women 4 x 100 relay are: Okagbare Blessing – 4 x 100m, Nwokocha Grace – 4 x 100m, Ofili Favour – 4 x 100m and Omovoh Knowledge – 4 x 100m.
AP Athletes: Ajayi Yinka – 4 x 400m Relay Mixed, Ojeli Ifeanyi – 4 x 400m Relay Mixed and Godbless Tima – 4 x 100m Relay.
Badminton: Adesokan Dorcas – Women’s Single event, Olufua Godwin – Men’s Double event and Opeyori Anuoluwapo – Men’s Double event.
Basketball: Men’s Team (12) and Women’s Team (12), Canoeing: Bello Ayomide – Women’s Sprint C1, 200m
Gymnastics: Uche Eke – Men’s Artistic Gymnastics.
Rowing: Esther Tamaramiyebi Toko – Women’s Single Sculs WX1
Taekwondo: Elizabeth Anyanacho – Women’s -67kg.
Table Tennis: Omotayo Olajide – Men’s Singles, Aruna Quadri – Men’s Singles, Edem Offiong – Women’s Singles and Olufunke Oshonaike – Women’s Singles
Wrestling: Adekuoroye Odunayo – Women’s Freestyle 57kg, Oborodudu Blessing – Women’s Freestyle 68kg, Aminat Adeniyi – Women’s Freestyle 62kg, Adijat Idris – Women’s Freestyle 50kg and Ekerekeme Agiomor – Men’s Freestyle 86kg.