C’wealth Games: Can Team Nigeria Surpass Past Records?

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Lagos – The 2018 Commonwealth Games, which is the 21st edition, is an international multi-sport event for members of the Commonwealth that will be held on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia between April 4 and 15, 2018.

The winning bid was announced in Basseterre, Saint Kitts on November 11, 2011. It will be the fifth time Australia has hosted the Games.

Nigeria (through Team Nigeria) has competed in 13 editions, from 1950. The country did not attend four Games, in 1962, 1978 (in protest at New Zealand’s policies), 1986 and 1998.

On record, Team Nigeria has won at least one medal at every Games attended, including a high 37 in 1994. The first medal in 1950 was won by Joshua Majekodunmi in the High Jump.

So far, the country is ninth on the overall table of the Commonwealth Games with 61 gold, 66 silver and 85 bronze medals totaling 212 medals.

The Ministry of Youth and Sports in conjunction with the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) has said that the country would take part in 10 events namely, Athletics, Wrestling, Basketball, Gymnastics, Boxing, Table Tennis, Weightlifting, Para Powerlifting, Para Table Tennis and Para Athletics.

Team Nigeria will be represented by 90 athletes comprising 38 female, 52 male and 43 officials.

Since her debut in the 1950 edition in Auckland, New Zealand, Nigeria’s profile at the Games has been on the rise.

Nigerian athletes have never failed to prove their mettle in placing the nation on the scoreboard of this global sporting fiesta.

For the nation to sustain the winning momentum at the Commonwealth Games, the support of the Team Nigeria comes in especially in the area of funding, which we learnt has been taken care of.

According to our findings, all allowances have been paid to the athletes before they left the shore of the country for Australia.

“Each athlete received N15, 000 per day for 21 days being the period of the last phase of camping.

“They were also given specific competition kits and equipment to be used at the Commonwealth Games,” said our source.

The Nigerian Commonwealth and the Olympic family through the collaborations with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has continually offered athletes and coaches opportunities for training and personal development through international scholarships and technical courses. This will definitely help boost the performance of the country as the athletes have intensified preparations in various camps across the nation.

Three days from now, the Games would begin and Team Nigeria would be among the teams competing for medals.

But how prepared is the country’s athletes (Team Nigeria) for the Games billed to officially begin on Wednesday?

The Sports Ministry began its first phase of camping on December 17, 2018 in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja.

Boxers, Table tennis and Para Table tennis players were camped in Lagos, while weightlifters were camped in Abuja with Port Harcourt hosting Athletics and Para Athletics.

Facilities at the three camps were said to be of high standards and so sports loving Nigerians expect good performances from the athletes.

The IAAF High Performance Centre at the University of Port Harcourt served as venue for the camp in Port Harcourt and Camp Commandant; Mrs. Maria Wophil, who is also Assistant Director, Elite Athletes in the Sports Ministry affirmed that the athletes were ready for the challenge in Gold Coast.

“We’ve done all that is humanly possible in terms of preparations for the Games and I want to state here that the athletes would not disappoint as they are ready to compete with others,” she said.

Another sport that the country will be looking up to is basketball. The team qualified after being ranked in the top three in the Commonwealth (besides the host nation, Australia).

With team captain, Ike Diogu assurance to still play for the country, there is hope for the country in basketball as he has reaffirmed his passion to play for the country.

An emblematic player for Nigeria over the course of the past five years, the 6ft 9in (2.05m) power forward has experienced joy, frustration and hope while wearing the jersey of Africa’s No.1 team.

In his national team debut at the 2012 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Venezuela, Diogu lined up along some of Nigeria’s finest players – including Al Farouq Aminu, Tony Skinn, Ade Dagunduro, and Chamberlain Oguchi, just to mention a few – as the team took the world by storm.

In that tournament, they not only beat European powerhouse Lithuania and Greece but became the first-ever African nation to advance to the Olympic Games via OQT.

Athletics is another sport that the country will be looking forward to excel at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Seeing that 2018 is neither an Olympics nor World Championships year, Nigeria will be looking forward to participating effectively well in Gold Coast after the World Indoor Championships in March (which will served as preparation for the Commonwealth Games).

There is no doubt that for the sport, the Commonwealth Games is a big event.

In wrestling, president of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation (NWF), Hon. Daniel Igali, is optimistic that the wrestlers, through the sponsorship of Nike, would live up to expectations and not disappoint.

The wrestlers were presented kits by the NWF from Nike, which include wrestling boots/singlet’s, ear guards and knee pads as part of a partial sponsorship deal struck by the NWF with the sportswear giants. It is also the first time in the history of the sport in Nigeria that wrestling is attracting any form of kit sponsorship.

Igali explained that the partnership between the federation and Nike, while expressing hope that the brilliant performance of the team would help attract further sponsors.

“We have a partial sponsorship agreement with Nike right now, they are just giving us some equipment, and we are buying some at reduced prices from them. But we are hoping that as the relationship progresses, it will get to full sponsorship.

“I am happy because this is the first time in the history of our sport (wrestling) that I know, that we are starting to have some sponsorship concerns from an institution as highly reputable as Nike.

“And I’m hoping that from the way we are performing, not only Nike, but some other sportswear manufacturing companies will also identify with us.”

Asked whether the new Nike kits could motivate the athletes to a great showing in Gold Coast, Igali said: “I hope so. There is something about new kits, actually not just new kits, but very quality kits from one of the topmost sportswear companies in the world.

“To have identified with you means that they hold you also in very high esteem, and on your part you have to also perform to their expectation.

“So I’m hoping this will act as a boost to them (wrestling team),” Igali concluded.

Head coach of the female team, Purity Akuh said the wrestlers were in good shape and ready to make the country proud in Australia.

“Honestly, I really want to thank the Almighty God because the team is in good spirit, one love and very peaceful in camp” he said.

“And I must be very frank with you, every day they keep impressing me, they keep listening to my instructions especially on the strategies we plan to use against the Indians and Canadians, who are our likely tough opponents (at the Games). So they are really responding to training; even when I want to take the training to like 50, 60 %, they will take it from me and take it to like 80, 90%.

“So I’m very optimistic that the female team will do very well at the Commonwealth Games.”

On her part, World Silver-medalist, Odunayo Adekuoroye (57kg) expressed her readiness for the Games, adding that she is looking forward to defending the gold medal she won at the last edition of the Games in Scotland given the level of preparation she’s had.

“We have been in camp for almost two months now, and we have been preparing so very hard,” the multiple African champion said.

“We have been adding so many things to our wrestling, especially myself-I have been given some attention by my coach, and I believe everything will be alright.”

In the 62kg weight class, Aminat Adeniyi is aiming to win another gold medal after achieving same feat in Scotland four years ago in the 58kg category.

The Ondo State-born fighter, who said she was ready for her title defence, identified the Canadians and Indians as possible threat to her aspiration. By the grace of God, I’m very ready,” she said.

“Our coach has really trained us hard; he has watched the video of our opponents, especially the Canadians and Indians. We have worked out a lot of things on the mat, and I’m ready.”

Meanwhile, captain of the male team, Amas Daniel (65kg) also expressed his side’s readiness, stating that they are primed for a successful outing at the Games.

“I’m very much prepared physically and spiritually, and I also want to assure that we are ready,” the six-time African Champion stated.

“Having one mind that we are all going to stand in the centre of the podium, I mean, we are very much prepared. Our mindsets are good despite some challenges we faced in the past, we’ve all zeroed our mind.

Nigeria wrestling team accounted for 12 of the 36 medals won by the country at the last edition of the Commonwealth games in Glasgow, Scotland, four years ago.

President of the Nigeria Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), Engr. Tikon Ishiaku, said his athletes were not going to be push over at the Games.

“I sat down with the board members and technical committee and I asked how we can go all the way to Australia with our allocation and make an impact.

“We decided that if we will go with four male players, we will be able to compete in the singles, doubles and team events but if we take two male and two female, we will only take part in the singles and that would be that.

“We have looked at the profile of all our players both at home and abroad. Aruna Quadri, Segun Toriola, Jide Omotayo and Bode Abiodun are all doing very well and they are all training in Europe.

“If we look at the present status of our women, Funke Oshonaike is number five. We just came back from the top 16 in Nairobi and we just don’t want to compete in the singles event and come back.

“These are the players we can vouch for. There is no gender issue attached to this. Players were picked based on allocation and strength. It is the exclusive prerogative of the federation to come up with a team that can give them medals at the Games,” he said.

However, in spite of all the promises, former Nigerian Queen of the track, Mary Onyali has said that Nigerians should not expect Team Nigeria to churn out better results than they did four years ago in Glasgow.

Team Nigeria won 36 medals at the Glasgow Games in 2014, three more than they did in 2010. In athletics, seven medals were won in 2014, three more than the 2010 edition in India.

Onyali thinks the lesser the number of sports and athletes participating at the Games, the lower our expectation for medals.

“We can’t surpass our medal haul in 2014 because we are going to be involved in 10 sports in this 2018 Games unlike the previous editions, we went with 14 or 15 sports.

“There are more chances and opportunities in winning more medals when you go with more sports,” she said.

She also pointed out harsh weather condition as another factor that would deprive the athletes in Australia.

“The situation may even be more critical as far as medal haul is concerned because Australia is in the most Southern Hemisphere and their summer which is supposed to be the warmest part of their season is not in line with our summer; their summer is on right now.  Athletics is where most of our medals are won in major championship.”

“October to April is when we consider our build up to the new season. During this period, athletes are heavy in training, not sharp, not fast and ready for speed work and competitiveness.

“We actually start competing competitively from April, May, June, July, August which is our peak so this period is an off peak period in athletics.”

The post C’wealth Games: Can Team Nigeria Surpass Past Records? appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.

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