Much ado about Team Nigeria’s slow start

The commentary of many Nigerians on the ongoing Olympic Games in Tokyo smacks of ignorance.


Many fail to realize the magnitude of the games which had 206 countries in attendance.


The games involve the best athletes from all over the world, it is not sub-regional or continental where only 20 or 52 countries feature. Top countries in Europe, Asia, Oceania, North America, South America and even Africa have facilities to develop and expose athletes with modern gadgets.


There is always a template for athletes to move from one stage into the other in their careers. The sponsors are all over their respective federations to take athletes to the best competitions around the world while technically, these countries have top grade coaches. Sadly, same cannot be said of Nigeria about the good tidings in the modern world of sports.


The early part of the Olympics, especially the first seven days, were so unpleasant for Nigeria. The country lost out in Rowing, Taekwondo, Badminton, Gymnastics and Table Tennis.


The four table tennis players including highly-rated Aruna Quadri crashed out early. As usual Nigerians have been lamenting the early poor run of Team Nigeria but failed to appreciate the fact that the country’s athletes were competing among the very best among 206 countries.


It is not easy especially because despite the below-par facilities in Nigeria and inadequate resources for regular presence in circuit events, some athletes still make the qualification mark for the Olympics.


For example, there is no boxer representing Nigeria at the games because there was no money at the time they were billed to go for qualifiers.


This will not happen in advanced countries where there are sponsors footing the bills of these programmes. Sadly, the last qualifier the boxers were supposed to attend was cancelled. In the early part of the Olympics, sports like swimming, gymnastics, boxing, weightlifting and fencing are on parade with plenty of medals on the cards.


Swimming and gymnastics have no fewer than 40 gold medals at stake, interestingly a Tunisian won one of the gold medals in the early days.


That Nigeria did not start well is no news because the country’s prospects always manifest in the run-in when wrestling and athletics will be on parade.


If the country is to be in contention for early medal rush, there must be a deliberate effort to boost swimming, gymnastics, etc in Nigeria. In sports, anything can happen to propel a good or bad result.


Japan’s poster girl, Naomi Osaka, ignited the torch of the games and the country was waiting for her to clinch the women’s singles tennis gold but she lost 6-1, 6-4 to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic in the third round of the Tokyo Games on Tuesday. How do you explain that?


Football, the country’s number one sport, failed to qualify for the men and women even despite the huge investment.


Nigeria is yet to play in the quarterfinal of a World Cup and Nigerians should be worried about that. Olympic Games event is much more than a sport, it is the greatest assemblage of people in the world and to make impact in the competition is not a child’s play. It takes at least three full years to get athletes ready and going forward, we must be ready to do that.


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