One of the most anticipated sports events in the world is over after the challenges faced due to the pandemic and finances already invested to make it a success. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics may have turned out differently compared to what we have seen in the past but nevertheless, many all over the world still regarded it a success.
Team Nigeria, however, would not be looking back at it with so much excitement after making it to the podium twice with a bronze and a silver medal in long jump and wrestling events respectively. If we considered the previous Olympics where Nigeria had only the bronze medal to show for her participation, we could say there was progress. But in real terms, that bronze was gotten from the male football event which we failed to even qualify to feature in the 2020 Olympics and with our experience in this grand sporting event, more was expected from Team Nigeria.
There are many things that could have contributed to the general poor showing of the athletes with over 200 million people looking in disbelief and embarrasement. Who do we blame for what happened? The government? The management? The athletes themeselves? Blame game do not provide solutions no matter how we play it. But there is a lot to be done to restore our reputation in world sports, and thankfully, the U20 team is finally creating a blueprint.
The World Athletics U20 Championships hosted by Kenya has shown that Nigeria has a bright future in the world of athletics even as the country ranks third on the medal table right now with seven medals (four gold medals and three bronze medals). This comes with resounding dominace in the trank events with Udodi Chudi Onwuzurike winning the men’s 200 metre race with an U20 record of 20.13 seconds, Imaobong Nse Uko coming out victorious in the women’s 400 metre race as well as the collective efforts of Team Nigeria to win the 4×400 metre races in both the women and mixed categories.
This outing shows that Team Nigeria really has what it takes to stand out in international competitons and I believe these athletes will want to move up to the next level and show the world that it is no fluke. There is a need for the sporting stakeholders to sit up and do what is right. It is baffling to see that funding is still a challenge and that really affected the perfomances of most athletes who had to wash the only kit they had after each match and train with funds generated from the internet during the immediate past olympics. Little wonder many of these athletes feuture for countries who care about their progress as sportsmen and women.
What are we going to do about this? The choice is within us but majority lies with the government who need to draw out a proper blueprint on how to build a team that would make the nation proud.