Team Nigeria has won a total number of 25 medals (3 gold, 10 silver, and 13 bronze) since it first appeared at the Olympic Games in Helsinki in 1952. AJIBADE OLUSESAN highlights some of the most exciting moments by the country at the Games.
Nojim Maiyegun first medal in the 1964 Tokyo Games
Nigeria first appeared at the Olympics in 1952 and it was not until 12 years later that the country won her firstever medal at the Games. incidentally, the country’s first medal was won in Tokyo, the venue of this year’s Games, and the bronze medal was won by boxer Nojeem Maiyegun in the Light Middleweight (71 kg) category. Maiyegun, fondly called Omo Oloja was in a devastating form en route to the semifinal; he was drawn by in the first round and then dealt with Great Britain’s William Robinson in the second round. The quarterfinal was heavily one-sided as he pummeled Tom Bogs in a bout that lasted for just 58 seconds. Maiyegun gave his best performance in the semifinal but Frenchman Gonzales was equally in great form and the two had to be split by the judges as three of them favored the Frenchman. The now Octogenarian prepared the ground for the 25 medals the country has won in total.
Peter Konyegwachie silver medal Isaac Ikhouria repeated Maiyegun’s feat by claiming the country’s second bronze medal in the Men’s light heavyweight boxing event of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich but the feeling among Nigerians was different when Konyegwachie produced another colour of the medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. He won a silver medal for the country for the first time. He started the journey in the second round as he was drawn by in the first, and he defeated Ali FAki of Malawi, Rafael Zualiga of Colombia, Charles Lubulwa of Uganda, and Turgut Aykas of Turkey before he succumbed to United State’s Meldrick Taylor in the final.
Women’s 4X100m Bronze Barcelona 1992
Team Nigeria had one of its best outings at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. The country claimed four medals; three of them were silver but the most celebrated was the bronze medal won by the quartet of Beatrice Utondu, Faith Idehen, Mary Onyali, and Christy Opara-Thompson in the women’s 4x100m. The celebration was understandable; it was the first medal that was won by any Nigerian woman at the Olympics and the picture of the celebration by the quartet remains one of the most iconic.
Dream Team football gold at Atlanta 1996 Games
It is arguably one of the finest moments of the Olympic Games; an African country beating all comers to win a gold medal in the Olympics was a dream almost unbelievable but the Dream Team of Nigeria produced that magic at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics. Nigeria’s U-23 team which was handled by Coach Jo Bonfere produced an amazing comeback against Brazil in a thrilling semifinal match went on to beat Argentina in the finals and sent Nigerians across the world into wild jubilation.
Chioma Ajunwa’s Long Jump gold at Atlanta 1996 Games
Ajunwa produced unarguably the biggest achievement by a Nigerian in the history of the Olympics Games. The country had her best Olympics outing at the Atlanta 1996 Games and the symbol of that run was the policewoman who retains her status as the only individual gold medalist for the country. Her story was that of doggedness and perseverance, after changing her career from football to athletics, Ajunwa suffered a four-year ban that took her away from the sport. But she still came back to claim the greatest achievement by a Nigerian athlete at the Games when she leapt 7.12metre in the Women’s Long Jump event to win a gold medal.
Men’s 4x400m Gold at Sydney 2004 Games
Enefiok Udo-Obong ran the race of his life but Nigeria’s relay team could only finish second behind the United States. However, fortune smiled on them years later after the American team were found guilty of drug related offences and that made the International Olympic Committee strip them of the medal and handed it over to Nigeria. The wonderful quartet that won that priceless gold includes Udo-Obong who ran the last leg, Clement Chukwu, Jude Monye, and Sunday Bada. The duo of Nduka Awazie and Fidelis Gadzama also deserve a mention having played their parts in the heats before the final.
Chika Chukwumerije taekwondo bronze at 2008 Beijing GAmes
Taekwondo was the least sport where the country could hope to win a medal at the highest level but Chukwumerije changed the narratives when he claimed a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Chukwumerije was born with a silver spoon; many of his breeds don’t go into sport, but as a son of an ex-lawmaker and former minister, the athlete excelled at the biggest sporting event in the world. He enjoyed his rich father’s support who sponsored his training and preparation ahead of the Games and the taekwondo practitioner rewarded those efforts with a bronze medal. He was close to getting into the final but was narrowly defeated Alexandros Nikolaidis in the semi-finals of the +80kg event.
Men’s 4×400 metre relay at 1984 Los Angelese Games
The Olympics in the US was the first time the country will leave the Games with more than one medal. The relay team comprised of Sunday Uti, Moses Ugbisie, Rotimi Peters and Innocent Egbunike created history by becoming the first winner of an Olympics Games medal outside of boxing by claiming the bronze medal in the 4×400 metre.