The odds for Nigeria on the eve of the strangest Olympics! –


The sports world was in the throes of action last week. As much attention is being paid to the Games as to the resurgence of the Corona virus.

From the ongoing Wimbledon tennis championship to football in 11 European cities for Euro 2020, to athletics matches around the world, to the CONCACAF Gold Cup and COPA America, to qualifying events in different parts world and protests in Japan against moving forward with the Games amid increasing pandemic cases, there has been an explosion of sports everywhere.

It’s hard to imagine that in the midst of all of this, an NFF-selected national team (because they’re not the Super Eagles as we know Nigeria’s ‘first eleven’) made up of hastily assembled home players. in the national league went to the United States of America to face the entire Mexican national football team in what the NFF says is an “exhibition” for faster development of Nigerian football. Many Nigerians who have gone through the agony of a humiliating 4-0 defeat in a game where the Nigerian team did not make a single serious foray into the Mexican goal area, let alone scoring a goal, suggest that it may have been dumber than wise to have thrown rookies into the depths of international football. Only time will reveal the psychological gain or damage of such an experience.

Meanwhile, the biggest football events in the world this season, COPA America and Euro 2020, which take place in Brazil and 11 European capitals, wrap up this weekend in Rio De Janeiro and London respectively. South America’s biggest rivals Brazil, led by Neymar, and Argentina, led by Messi, are ready for an explosive night of football with a “story” written everywhere, whoever wins. The match will be played without an audience !!

Meanwhile, halfway around the world in London, Wembley Stadium will be electrified by a crowd of 60,000 fans eager to see a new chapter in English football. There is the possibility of a Three Lions victory over the Azurris, to end the agony of a 51-year wait since England last won a major international trophy, the World Cup. from 1966.

Judging by how England bravely fought and overtook Denmark in the semi-final last Wednesday night, the world should be ready for a global orgy of celebration when they subdue the Italians. This is my prediction.

On the same day and in a different part of the city, London will also host the final match of the Wimbledon Gentlemen tennis championship.
I’m writing this before the semi-final matches are played, but my heart tells me to look forward to a final match between two new finalists. I’m bored with a Djokovic in the absence of Federer or Nadal. Tennis surely needs new faces and a new generation.

After this weekend, all the attention will be riveted on Tokyo 2020. Without the usual crowds of international sports tourists and the absence of local fans at most venues, it will be the weirdest Olympics ever.

Those lucky enough to be in Tokyo must document for posterity what will probably never be repeated.

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My take is that once the events kick in, piloted by TV cameras unlike any other the world has seen before, the medal frenzy will completely override the fear of the virus. “Corona” will take a back seat in conversations and the world will have to live with the consequences for a while.

I believe Covid-19 is here to stay with humanity for a while. Japan will bear the consequences, their huge bet when the dust on the feet of the last supporters and competitors settles after August 8.

As for the Nigerians, encouraged by the superlative performances of some of their top athletes during the trials held in Lagos (as well as good results in basketball and wrestling), they have now started to dream big and see the small possibilities. a harvest of medals as being touted by sports officials in the country.

The Nigerian Ministry of Sports, without a doubt, has worked hard and very well to prepare Nigerian athletes for the games despite the lack of a strong core sports development program to fertilize the plentiful field of naturally gifted athletes across the country. country.
As it should be, the preparation and participation of the teams is the responsibility of the federal government through the sports development directorate of the Ministry of Sports.

A few Olympics ago, the ministry, with Patrick Ekeji leading the initiative, got creative in creating “Team Nigeria”, a marketing concept designed to raise additional funds to reduce the financial burden on the government. . He did not last more than a few years before he “died”. While it lasted, it did relatively well, but was not allowed to germinate.

Thus, the Olympic Games, the African Games and the Commonwealth Games, exclusively, all fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of Sports, through the Nigerian Olympic Committee which registers the country for these particular international competitions. The ministry takes full responsibility for sports results.

The question then arises: where do the national federations intervene?
The simple answer is that they have their own exclusive list of national and international competitions for which they are responsible. In the Olympic Games, they only participate at the level chosen by the Ministry of Sports to give them leverage. They can collaborate with the ministry in all processes leading to the selection of teams and individual athletes, but without taking full or partial responsibility for the results.

For all other national and international competitions of clubs and national teams such as the African Cup of Nations, National Leagues, FA Cup, Club and Country World Cups, World Championships, competitions held and organized by international sports confederations which are not products of the International Olympic Committee, the national federations take responsibility as they can finance competitions themselves successfully and independently without government support. Once they need and seek government support, they mortgage some of their autonomy and rights to the ministry.

But that’s another question for another day.

As Nigeria gears up for Tokyo 2020, hope for medals is particularly exciting for Nigerians. How realistic is it to expect more than a token number this time around?

Two weeks ago, hopes were soaring after the track and field trials held in Lagos, Nigeria.

In other sports, too, hopes have increased. The two basketball teams, men’s and women’s (going to the Olympics together for the first time) look sharp and ready to roll, both populated by Nigerian basketball players born or domiciled and playing in the NBA. They present an interesting and formidable challenge for any opposing team at the Games. But a medal for either may still be “a bridge too far”, for now.

The wrestling teams, with the women in the lead, seem ready with at least one medal of any color. Inspired by the performance of Odunayo Adekuoroye, ranked world number 2 now in his weight class, the team could shock the world and win one or more medals.

Table tennis, with its duo Quadri Aruna and Funke Oshonaike, presents an interesting perspective. Now ranked 18th in the world, Aruna, who is competing in his third Olympics, is in the zone where anything is possible on a good night’s sleep.
Funke will certainly earn a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for her 7th participation in the Olympics, the first African woman in history to achieve this feat. She is unlikely to climb a medal podium.

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On paper, Nigeria’s best chances are in the women’s track and field events. Nigerians’ spirits were lifted after Blessing Okagbare’s 10.63-second, 100-meter wind-assisted sprint during the Nigerian practice, the best such time in the world.

There is good news and bad news for the Nigerian Okagbare.
The ‘good’ news is that American sprinter Sha ‘Carri Richardson, presented as a potential gold medalist just a week ago in the 100 meters after setting the world’s fastest time this year, has been suspended for going with the team to the Olympics by the USA Track and Field Association, for using an illegal substance. America’s loss seemed to be Nigeria’s gain until we watched Blessings race against 3 of the girls who have been his nemesis in at least the past decade.

They are still there. This is the “bad news”. Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryse from Jamaica, Marie Jose-Ta Lou from Ivory Coast and Elaine Thompson-Herah, the trio, are all heading to the Olympics. On the eve of the Olympics, the trio edged out Blessing in the final 100m race between them last weekend at the Istvan Gyulai Memorial in Budapest, Hungary.

In the 200 meters, Sherika Johnson of Jamaica has some of the fastest Diamond League times in Europe. Dina Asher Smith from the UK is very close to her in the best times recorded. This medal “store” may also be closed in Blessing.

This means that Nigeria is not an island. Other countries and athletes do not sleep. Nigeria must therefore reassess its chances on Track, in particular.

In the long jump, there is more than hope. There is a probability of a medal. The longest jump for a woman in the world this year belongs to a Nigerian, Ese Brume.

The 7-meter bar has remained largely elusive for the current generation of world jumpers. Only Chantel Malone of the British Isles of Virginia, Brittney Reese of the United States and Mihambo Malaika of Germany have jumped over 7 meters this season. But none beat Ese’s new African record of 7.17 meters. His chances are therefore very bright for a gold or silver medal.

On paper, that’s about all for Nigeria’s chances. There will be no medal taking from Tokyo. Between 3 and 5 medals at most, with the possibility of a Gold medal by Ese Brume, or Odunayo Adekuroye. It may be Nigeria’s medal harvest when he returns home.

That said, you never say never at the Olympics. On a good night, anything is possible. This is why Nigerians should pray, as usual, for a good night’s sleep in Tokyo.

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