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London 2012 Paralympics: Can Team Nigeria wipe out Olympic tears?
WITH sad memories of Nigeria's participation at the just-concluded London 2012 Olympics still fresh on the minds of many sports-loving Nigerians, the nation is once again set for the Paralympic Games which gets underway also in London from today.
Team Nigeria made up of 29 athletes will feature in powerlifting, wheelchair tennis, table tennis and athletics at the Games.
Nigeria first participated at the Summer Paralympics in 1992 in Barcelona and to date had won 22 gold, 11 silver and 12 bronze medals in five appearances.
Deputy Sports Editor, GANIYU SALMAN, in this piece, examines the chances of Team Nigeria in winning gold medals again at this year's Games, as the competition which began in 1960 in Rome has always lent credence to the fact that there is ability in disability.
SIX male athletes who competed in track and field, powerlifting and table tennis events represented Nigeria in 1992 and the maiden appearance was a very eventful one.
However, the feat by Adeoye Ajibola who won two gold medals in sprint as well as Monday Emoghawve in powerlifting at Barcelona '92 Summer Paralympics, was not celebrated as such, as Nigeria had earlier at the Olympics proper had a splendid outing too winning two silver medals in boxing as well as in athletics.
But the performance of these athletes formally heralded special sports in the country as many began to make reference to the fact that the able-bodied could not produce one gold since Nigeria's debut at the Olympics in 1952 until at Atlanta '96 through Chioma Ajunwa. At Atlanta Paralympics, Nigeria won three gold medals, two through Adeoye Ajibola and Emoghavwe again in powerlifting.
At Sydney 2000 Paralympics, Nigeria grabbed seven gold medals for the first time, the best result till date.
Emoghavwe took his third consecutive gold medal in powerlifting, as Edith Nzuruike, blazed the trail to win gold in javelin. Also at Sydney 2000, three female powerlifters, Iyabo Ismaila, Victoria Nneji and Patricia Okafor each won the gold.
In table tennis, Tajudeen Agunbiade won gold in the men's singles, while the trio of Agunbiade, Tunde Adisa and Femi Alabi won the gold in the team event.
At Athens 2004 Paralympics, Adekunle Adesoji, won the gold in the T12 event running a new personal best and world record of 10.75 secs. as Silver Ezeikpe grabbed a gold medal in the men's javelin, a feat also achieved by Lucy Ejike in powerlifting.
Nigeria also recored a memorable outing at Beijing 2008 Paralympics winning four gold, four silver and one bronze medals.
Eucharia Njideka Iyiazi won two gold medals in discus throw F57/58 and shot put F57/58, while Lucy Ogechukwu Ejike won the gold in the women's 48kg powerlifting, as well as Ruel Ishaku in the men's 48kg.
World record holder, Adesoji lost the gold to American Joshua Jamison as three powerlifters, Obioma Daleth Aligekwe, men's 100 kg, Grace Ebere Anozie, women's +82.5 kg and Amoge Victoria Nneji in the women's 67.5kg also settled fot silver medals.
Another powerlifter, Patience Aghimile Igbiti settled for the bronze in the women's 60kg.
Interestingly, Nigeria at the moment boast of two world record holders in powerlifting as the nation is set for actions at London 2012 Paralympics.
The Nigerian team to the Games had embarked on a training tour of South Korea to perfect its readiness for the Games which officially kick off today.
Pundits believe that the team given its level of preparedness would reignite the country's status in the world of sports by winning as many as possible.
Nigeria is presenting 16 powerlifters out of the 20 who qualified for the Games as trials were held to get the final squad.
Yakubu Adesokan, holds the world record in powerlifting in the 48kg which he set at the 4th Faza world paralympic powerliifting championship in the United Arab Emirates. The 2010 Commowealth gold medallist, lifted 177kg to erase his own world record of 175kg he set at IWAS World Games 2011 also held in UAE.
Also, Grace Anozie, holds the world record in the 82.5kg + with a lift of 168kg to erase the former record of 167kg which she also set last December in UAE.
Nigeria can also boast of powerlifters like Ifeanyi Nnajiofor Nnajiofor (60kg), Esther Onyema (48kg), Nwokorie lvory (44kg) and Olufemi Ayo Folashade (75kg), who all won gold medals at the last world championship in UAE, among others.
In the same vein, Nigeria will be represented in wheelchair tennis by Wasiu Yusuf and Alex Adewale.
The duo got wild cards through the International Tennis Federation (ITF) following their impressive performance at world championships.
Wasiu, remains the cynosure of all eyes having featured at Beijing 2008 Paralympics, where he lost in the first round to Stefan Olsson of Sweden. 2-6, 1-6 in the men's singles.
The dark skinned player who won the ITF Silver Fund Cup for Africa in October 2007.is expected to bring their wealth of experience to bear this time.
His partnership with Adewale could also give Nigeria a medal in the team event if their current form is anything to go by.
Team Nigeria's squad also has nine athletes for track and field events led by Iyiazi Njideka, Otoboeze Nneka and Abdullahi Ayuba, who won gold medals each in the F54, T46 women’s 100m and T46 men’s 100metres events respectively at the qualifiers held in Dubai.
Two players for the wheelchair table tennis, Tunde Adisa (Class 9) and Oluade Egbinola (Class 3) complete the 29-man squad to London 2012 Paralympics.
The duo got the tickets after featuring at the Paralympic qualifiers held early this year.
It will be recalled that the late Murtala Ibrahim, who died early last month in Lagos, won a silver medal for Nigeria at Sydney 2000 Paralympics in wheelchair tennis, and this feat would no doubt serves as motivation for the duo of Adisa and Eginola, who were part of the training tour of Korea to aspire to better the result this time at London 2012 Paralympics.Share
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