When 2022 Commonwealth Games unites us
The 2022 Commonwealth Games has come and gone. Winners have emerged, records broken and new ones have been set. The games in Birmingham came to a close with Australia topping the table with 178 medals.
Team Nigeria amassed 12 Gold, nine silver and 14 bronze; being a total of 35 medals at the end of the 2022 Games to place seventh on the medals’ table. The gold medal haul is the highest at a single Commonwealth Games for Team Nigeria, representing its best performance ever. This impressive outing ensured Team Nigeria also finished as the best-ranked African country on the medals table.
It is on record that our ladies performed better than the men, winning 12 gold medals for Nigeria. The Nigerian quartet of Udodi Onwuzurike, Favour Ashe, Alaba Akintola and Raymond Ekevwo won Bronze in the men’s 4x100m relay, finishing in a time of 38.81s.
It was the first time Nigeria would get a podium finish in the event since Auckland 1990. The quartet of Victor Nwankwo, Davidson Ezinwa, Osmond Ezinwa, Abdullahi Tetengi finished with a silver medal on that occasion.
Edidiong Umoafia also won a bronze in 67kg weightlifting, Ikechukwu Christian Obichukwu (Silver, Men’s Heavyweight) in Powerlifting, Wilson Ebikewemino (Silver, Men’s Freestyle 57kg) Wrestling, Ogunkunle Isau (Bronze, Men’s Singles Classes 3-5) Para-Table Tennis and Onyekwere Ifeanyi (Bronze, Men’s over 92kg Super Heavyweight) in Boxing.
Tobi Amusan was drafted into the women’s team, after she had broken the Commonwealth Games 100m Hurdles record. It was indeed a strong quartet comprising Amusan in the lead leg, Favour Ofili on the back straight, then Rosemary Chukwuma on the third leg and Grace Nwokocha anchoring the team.
Nigeria did not only beat a strong field that had England finishing 2nd, and Jamaica 3rd, they also blazed to a new African Record of 42.10s, said to be the fastest any Nigerian female team has ever run.
Amusan started well for the team, handed over to Ofili to bring the baton to Chukwuma, who was by far the outstanding athlete in that race, eating up the bend in the home straight and giving Nwokocha a comfortable lead to bring home the baton for Gold. Ese Brume also won Gold in the Long jump event.
The Ouadri Aruna-led men’s table tennis team was beaten in the semi-finals by India. Our women’s table tennis team could not advance to the quarterfinals, they were defeated by the English team.
Watching the games in our Newsroom, there was no division amongst everyone watching. There was no claim to Obidient, BATists or the Atikulates. We were all excited at the victory of the Team. I am sure across the length and breadth of Nigeria, from Lagos to Sokoto, Port Harcourt, and Nnewi, the factor of winning was paramount in the minds of Nigerians, irrespective of where the athletes came from. The national spirit was at play.
The relay quartet that won gold for the country did not run for their tribes. They ran for Nigeria. So when politicians play the ethnic and religious cards to divide and rule us, let us not fall for their plan. Nigerians love each other. It is the politicians who sow seeds of discord.
We have talents in abundance to dominate in sports. What we lack is the capacity to manage them to reach the podium en masse. We must build capacity in competent leadership and not tribal or religious leadership.
When the National Anthem of Nigeria was played at the medal presentations, it was a moment of joy as could be seen on the face of athletes. At the Oregon competition, Tobi Amusan shed tears of joy.
Poor management is the bane of sports in Nigeria. Nonetheless, what stood out in Birmingham was the performance of the Nigerian contingent, more specifically, the female athletes, and the Ministry of Sports, which tried to ensure that there was no scandal, though there were issues with the kits. There was an initial disturbance about sports kits. This is a problem with us, we never manage to get ready until the last minute.
The Minister of Youths and Sports, Sunday Dare, appearing on a TV show, Journalist Hangout said the ministry prioritised the sporting activities they were to participate in. The World athletics championship in Oregon, USA and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham were top on their agenda and the Ministry ensured that it got all things necessary that would make the team succeed. The excited Minister praised President Muhammadu Buhari and some state governors who gave them financial support.
President Muhammadu Buhari on his part described Team Nigeria’s performance at the Birmingham Games, as a parting gift to him. Buhari said this in a statement issued by his media aide Femi Adesina.
‘‘We are proud of these achievements and the memories will linger with the nation forever and for me this is a special moment and a fitting parting gift, being my last Commonwealth Games as Head of State,” the statement quoted Buhari as saying.
The President commended the 94 worthy ambassadors that proudly flew the Nigerian flag in nine sporting events, and for those exciting moments when the medalists brought smiles to our faces by breaking world, national, and games records, as well as achieving personal bests in their career.
According to Buhari, the athletes’ performance was a display of the “God-given attributes of the real Nigerian- never give up, strive to the end.”
The President also lauded the coaching crew and team officials for the passion towards the development of sports in the country, assuring them that history will remember them for all their contributions to making our athletes shine in the international arena.
Team Nigeria’s performance with 35 medals, is the nation’s best outing at the Games in years. If well nurtured, Nigerian athletes will sweep medals at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Congratulations Team Nigeria!