Rio 2016: Can Team Nigeria come back with any medal?

Okagbare INSETS: Tosin Oke, left and Igali

Less than three weeks to the start of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, concerned Nigerians home and abroad have continued to ask questions over the possibilities of Team Nigeria winning a medal at the biggest global sports fiesta.

Nigerians have not forgotten the unenviable outing under a former Minister of Sports and Chairman, National Sports Commission (NSC), Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi who went to London 2012 with a contingent of 51 sportsmen and women competing in eight sports and came back with no medal.

Despite the numerous retreats, submissions and vows made by the government of the day to start preparing in earnest for the next Olympics in Rio, it looks as if Rio will just be “one of those normal outings.”

With another Olympics in the horizon and government of the day not releasing the needed funds for federations and their athletes until a few days to the games, many Nigerians have completely written the Team Nigeria contingent off.

According to Abdullahi, Team Nigeria will need N7 billion to prepare for the games with the money used to train quality athletes while also restructuring the various sports federations amongst other things. Four years down the line, no lessons seem to have been learnt.

With 86 athletes already on the train to Rio in the football, basketball, canoeing, table tennis, weightlifting, rowing, para-athletics, powerlifting, yatching, wrestling and track and field events, Nigerians are not too impressed with the level of financial commitment from the Buhari-led government.

Commendation must go to some federations like basketball, athletics, boxing and wrestling who have left no stone unturned in ensuring they give their athletes a reasonable level of preparation for the games.

Recently, unrelenting president of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation, Daniel Igali led a team to the Spanish grand prix to compete against 54 other countries.

At the end of the competition, the team won two bronze and one silver medals courtesy of Aminat Adeniyi, Odunayo Adekuoroye and Blessing Oborududu.

The mood in the camp of Nigeria men’s senior basketball team, D’Tigers was at a record high after the 2015 AfroBasket success.

At the moment, the team is camped in the United States of America after the Stankovic Cup in China and is engaged in high profiled friendlies against teams like France, Argentina and an impending tune up against the USA. It is believed that D’Tigers unlike at London 2012 Olympics would post a decent peformance this time.

In athletics, the majority of Nigerians depend largely on the likes of Blessing Okagbare, Gloria Asumnu and Tosin Oke for medals.

Nigeria’s hope for a medal received a boost recently when Stephen Mozia set an outdoor National Record (NR) in shot put on July 19 with a distance of 21.76m throw at in the Czech Republic which has seen him take a big leap to number three in the world rankings, just behind USA’s pair of Joe Kovacs (22.13m) and Ryan Crouser (22.11m).

“It bothers me when some Nigerians heap the blame on the government of the day rather than look at the bigger picture.

No matter what the Buhari-led government has done in the last one year, Nigerians should not expect any sure medal at the Olympics since the inability of the country to prepare for the Olympics on time could be described as a systemic problem,” a sports analyst observed.

According to the president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Solomon Ogba, winning a medal at a major competition requires adequate preparation.

“Preparation for the Olympics is a four-year project. Is it 17 days to go to the Games that we’ve suddenly realised that we haven’t prepared well for the games?,” remarked Ogba.

Recent studies have shown that to achieve podium success at the global level in any sport, you have to put in 10,000 hours of deliberate training which means about 2.5 hours every day for 10 years.

The NWF president, Igali puts the issue into perspective.

“Nigerians want us win medals? What are Nigerians doing to ensure we win medals? Nobody wants to invest a kobo in sports and doesn’t want to sponsor athletes to any competitions, yet they want the athletes to win medals,” said Igali, a former wrestler who won gold medal for Canada at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

With the dwindling economy and government of the day faced with other urgent matters of the state, it is obvious that government alone cannot carry the burden; the corporate sector has to step in.

It has been so rough these past few months with athletes groaning under the weight of training without the necessary motivation from the government due to hoarding of Olympic preparation funds.

“It is pertinent to note that training of athletes is not when you gather athletes in an enclosed area few months to a competition and load them. Training  should be off and on and combined with competition, which means training should have started immediately after the disappointing outing at the 2012 Olympics,” another sports analyst noted.