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    • #5832
      Anonymous
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      With the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics flagging off in the early hours of Friday, there is every reason to assess if Team Nigeria stands any medal chance at the games having won a total of 23 medals since debuting at the Olympics in 1952.

      Just like in London, Nigeria will be competing in eight events, which are football (men), basketball, canoeing, table tennis, athletics and wrestling.

      Team Nigeria is made up of 49 male and 29 female athletes, bringing the total number of Nigerian athletes that will compete for honours in Brazil to 78.

      But for team sports like football and basketball, track and field event contributes the highest number of sportsmen and women, with 21 athletes for the event for Nigeria.

      Nigeria’s comparative advantage for medals has always been in athletics, wrestling, boxing and weightlifting. Incidentally, but for track and field, and wrestling, Nigeria is going to the Rio Games with an athlete each in boxing and weightlifting.

      This development places a huge doubt on the country’s chances of winning medal at the Games.

      Track and Field

      Nigeria's sprint queen Okagbare recently admitted that only something in the region of 10.5 seconds can win 100 metres in the Rio Games. But she won her seventh 100m Nigerian title in Sapele some weeks ago in 11.06 seconds. It's obvious that for her to be at the podium, efforts must be doubled.
      She won the 200m in Sapele in 22.78secs, far behind an Olympics podium time of 21.34 seconds. That is the current world record set by United States’ Florence Griffits.

      Boxing

      In boxing super heavyweight category, Efe Ajagba will hope to fight his way to gold which was won last by Nigerian-born British pugilist, Anthony Joshua, who won the 2012 Games, defeating Italian Roberto Cammarelle on unanimous points’ decision. Efe Ajagba claimed his Olympic spot with a semifinal victory at the 2016 African Qualification Tournament in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
      Tested boxers as Croatian Filip Hrgovic, Erik Pfeifer, Lenier Pero of Cuba and Italian Guido Vianello, among others, will grace the Games. Some of these boxers have been training in the United States with state-of-the-art facilities. Ajagba may find the going tougher than expected, given his less than world-class preparation he had having trained at the National Stadium in Lagos with little support.

      Table Tennis

      Nigeria entered four athletes into the table tennis competition at the Games. Olympic veterans Quadri Aruna and Olufunke Oshonaike secured places each in the men's and women's singles by virtue of a top four finish at the 2015 All-Africa Games. Meanwhile, another veteran  Segun Toriola and Offiong Edem took the remaining spots on the Nigerian team by virtue of their top 2 finish respectively at the African Qualification Tournament in Khartoum, Sudan. For Toriola, he has become the fourth table tennis player and the first ever African athlete to appear in seven editions of the Summer Olympic Games. Abiodun Bode was awarded the third spot to build the men's team for the Games as the top African nation in the ITTF Olympic Ranking. Medal chances in this event does not look particularly strong with the team's preparations hampered by financial challenge. In March, for example, the Nigerian Table Tennis Federation (NTTF) could not finance the nation’s team to the ITTF World Championship in Malaysia, which also served as qualifying tournament for the Rio Olympic Game. The male players sponsored themselves to the championship, while their female counterparts (with the exception of Funke Oshonaike who paid her way) did not attend because they could not afford the cost.

      Weightlifting

      Nigeria, with one female weightlifter, qualified by virtue of a top four national finish at the 2016 African Championships.
      Failure of Oluwatoyin Adesami, who will compete in 107kg, will mean failure in this very sport that usually place the country on the global map.

      In the London Games, the country paraded two weightlifters. Felix Ekpo in Men’s 77kg and Mariam Usman in Women’s +75kg and still ended the Games without a medal.

      Basktball

      Nigeria men's basketball team qualified for the Olympics by winning the AfroBasket 2015 in Tunisia.
      The D’Tigers will be making a return to the Olympics after making their debut in the basketball event of the London 2012 Olympics. The team failed to move out of the group stage in London, but won one game against the then African champions, Tunisia. The Nigerian team had become better under Will Voigt, winning the Afrobasket for the first time last year and putting up a decent performance at the Stankovic Cup where the team defeated China twice to finish third, losing to Argentina and France. Ranked 25th in the world, Nigeria plays Argentina in its opening Group B game on Saturday. Others in the group are Lithuania, Croatia, Spain and Brazil.

      Football

      Nigeria men's football team qualified for the Olympics by winning the 2015 U-23 Africa Cup of Nations in Senegal.
      Having won gold in 1996 to silver in 2008, Nigeria would be hoping the U23 replicate the impressive performance of their predecessors. Japan, Sweden and Columbia all feature with Nigeria in Group B. Although the preparation cannot be said to be 100 per cent, the team, nonetheless, played some quality warm-up matches including a friendly against host Brazil, which ended 1-0 in favour of Nigeria. Overseen by Siasia, the team looks relatively formidable with the inclusion of John Obi Mikel, and the likes of Goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi, William Troost-Ekong, Usman Mohammed, Oghenekaro Etebo, Imoh Ezekiel and even Taiwo Awoniyi. Despite delay in connecting flight from the Atlanta training base in the United States (U.S.) to Rio was not enough to prevent the Dream Team VI from beating winning their opening game in the early hours of Friday after beating Japan 5-4 in a thrilling encounter.

      Wrestling

      Nigeria has a total of seven wrestlers going into the Olympic competition. One of them finished among the top six to book Olympic spot in the women's freestyle 53 kg at the 2015 World Championships, while the majority of Olympic berths were awarded to Nigerian wrestlers, who progressed to the top two finals at the 2016 African & Oceania Qualification Tournament.
      Wrestling event at the Games is scheduled to take place from 14 to 21 August at Hall 3 of the Olympic Training Center in Barra da Tijuca. Nigeria male representatives will be on the mat on the 14th, while their female counterparts will commence their campaign on the 17th. The team's chances going to this quadrennial event doesn't however look promising with preparations to at the required best due to shortage of funds. President of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation, Hon. Daniel Igali is however optimistic that the athletes will come to party and do the country proud despite the funding challenges. “We felt it (missing out of the medals at London 2012) four years ago but we are not going to allow that to repeat itself and the NWF has started the process of preparing these athletes few years back despite funding challenges.
      “One thing we have requested from these wrestlers going to Rio, was to go and give more than hundred percent and they all know that they can’t leave the matter feeling they should have done better and they know that we have burnt thousands of hours because of this Olympics and it would be travesty if all the efforts, belief is betrayed,” he added.

      Rowing

      Nigeria qualified one boat in the women's single sculls for the Games at the 2015 African Continental Qualification Regatta in Tunis, Tunisia.
      Chierika Ukogu will be the first Nigerian to compete at the Olympics rowing event. Ukogu, 24, had a torrid preparation for the games as she was virtually abandoned by the rowing federation and had to sponsor herself to the games after appealling for funds via the online crowdfunding platform, Gofundme. Her journey to the games started when she attended the 2015 World Rowing Championships in Aiguebelette, France, where she got to the finals of the single skulls and placed sixth. Ukogu, a Woman’s health researcher at the University of Pennsylvania then proceeded to Tunis for the 2015 FISA African Olympics Qualification Regatta where she won the bronze medal behind Micheen Thornycroft from Zimbabwe and the Algerian  Amina Rouba, who won the gold and silver respectively. After funding her training tours to France, Spain and the U.S, Ukogu may draw inspiration from her challenging preparations to make a strong impact at Rio Olympics.

      Swimming

      Nigeria received a Universality invitation from FINA to send two swimmers (one male and one female) to the Olympics, signifying its return to the sport after an eight-year hiatus. Samson Opuakpo would participate in the Men's 50 m freestyle while Rechael Tonjor will feature in the Women's 100 m breaststroke. Not known to be a solid medal prospect, Nigeria may not be expectant of a podium finish in an event dominated by the likes of USA and Australia

      Slalom

      Nigeria's sole canoeist in the men's K-1 class qualified for the Olympics by obtaining a top finish at the 2015 African Canoe Slalom Championships in Sagana, Kenya, staving off stiff oppositions from Morrocan and South African canoeists.
      Born to a Nigerian father and a British mother, Akinyemi at the London games in 2012 became the first Nigerian to compete in the canoeing event where he finished 21st in the heats. The 27 year old accountant will hope to put up a better performance than he did in 2012 acknowledging that his poor performance in London was due to the number of penalties he gave away during his three minute run. He had amassed 60 seconds of penalties in just 190 seconds.

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