Last month, Tobi Amusan literally set the 100-meter hurdles track on fire when she blazed to victory at the World Athletics Championships. Her time popped up on the clock at 12.06, 0.06 faster than the world record time she had set less than two hours prior in the first heat of the semifinals.
Her attention flipped to the wind-gauge, and she realized that her time in the final would not count as a world record because it was not wind legal. However, she was still delighted. She had already set the world record, 12.12, and she followed up with her first World Championships gold.
Social media immediately lit up with images of the victorious Amusan clad with the Nigerian flag. People all over the world screenshot her pictures, made them as their wallpapers and screen savers. You could tell that almost every Nigerian around the world was proud to be called Nigerian as a result of her victory.
Her victory also attracted commendation from various quarters and influential Nigerians, cutting across the Presidency, politicians, entrepreneurs as well as sports commentators and enthusiasts. Moments after her victory, the green-white-green of the Nigerian flag became the “aso ebi” literally for many Nigerians the world over.
Then in Birmingham, United Kingdom on Sunday, venue of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Amusan showed her outstanding performance in Oregun was not a fluke. The world champion successfully defended her title at the Alexander Stadium in the women’s 100m hurdles final. She was able to run a Games record of 12.30s, setting other records as well, and becoming the first world champion to win gold and the first Nigerian athlete to do the same.
It wasn’t only Amusan who shone like the star she is at the Games. On Sunday also, the world was left aghast as the quartet of Tobi Amusan, Favour Ofili, Rose Chukwuma and Grace Nwokocha emerged winners of the 4x100m Women’s relay race. The quartet set a new African Record of 42.10s to win Nigeria’s 11th gold medal in Birmingham and a historic Commonwealth Games medal.
Earlier, the quartet of Udodi Onwuzurike, Favour Ashe, Alaba Akintola and Raymond Ekevwo also gave a good show to secure the bronze medal in the men’s 4x100m event won by the English team. The Nigerian men finished in a time of 38.81s to make it to the podium.
Particularly, Nigerian athletes dominated the Women’s Shot Put event, with Eucharia Iyayi winning Gold, while Ugochi Alam clinched the Bronze. At the National Exhibition Centre on Tuesday, 19-year-old weightlifter Taiwo Liadi, won a silver medal. Adijat Olarinoye and Rafiat Lawal claimed the two gold medals in the women’s 55kg and 59kg categories respectively and set new Commonwealth Games records.
Olarinoye set a new Games record with a lift of 203kg – 92kg in Snatch and 111 in Clean and Jerk while Lawal clinched gold with a total lift of 206kg – 110kg in Snatch and 116kg in Clean and Jerk – to win the women’s 59kg weightlifting event. The beautiful Goodness Nwachukwu was at her imperious best as she won gold medal in the women’s discus event. Long jumper Ese Brume did it in style with a new Games Record of 7.00m as she reclaimed the title she won eight years ago.
The Games turned out to be Team Nigeria making the stage theirs. At the Games, Team Nigeria made the National anthem a hit track so to speak and the green-white-green flag a constant on the podium. With 12 Gold medals, Nigeria set a new record; the highest record for the country at the Games, which was previously 11 gold in 1994, 2010 and 2014.
The Games proved that Nigerians can hold their own anyw. in the world. It also showed that sports can be used to unify Nigerians, create bridges across artificial barriers and natural differences. It showed that it can unite Nigerians by providing a level field for fair . and competition. It also adds social-inclusion, health, economic and political dimensions and benefits to its derivables.
Over the years in Nigeria, sports have been paid less and less attention, making it unattractive to the teeming and energetic Nigerian youth. Sadly, it is not an area of priority and hardly an item in the country’s list of important goals and targets. When compared to advanced countries, sports in Nigeria seems to be a wasting re..
This is particularly disheartening because t. is an army of mostly young, impressionable, physically strong, aggressive, loud, ambitious, smart Nigerians, out t., passionate and knowledgeable about their sport. They have a stake in sport as athletes, pundits, supporters, social service providers, and followers. They can be molded, with some creative thinking, into an ‘army’ that can fight any noble national cause or mission.
Indeed, we can deliberately do great things with this legion, like setting specific agenda through the power of sport that can change Nigeria. More than ever in the country’s history, Nigerian youths need something, anything, to wake them up from their present state of inertia into a committed battalion of the sports army, deploying the power of their numbers to kick-start the march to a greater Nigeria.
Apart from sports, several Nigerians have been making the nation proud. In the entertainment industry, Nigerians especially the youths are taking over the world with back-to-back hit songs and great acting skills as their movies are fast becoming hits on Netflix. In Tech, Nigerians are also dominating the sector the world over, with young Nigerians in hot demand from the likes of Google and Microsoft.
Curiously at the Commonwealth Games, it was women that won more medals for the country when compared to their male counterparts. From the 2022 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations in Morocco, to the World Athletics Championship in Oregon, USA and the Games in Birmingham, Nigeria’s sports recently is being propelled by female athletes. Not forgetting that it was a woman – Chioma Ajunwa – that won Nigeria’s first ever Gold medal at the 1996 Olympics Games. The female athletes seem to be the ones running the show in continental and global competitions.
As we revel in the euphoria of triumph in the games, may we continue to support our champions of the world, the heroes of Nigeria, who at the Commonwealth have shown that they all have a collective ‘Common Wealth’ of victory.
“Thank you, ladies, you have made us so outrageously proud.”
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