The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics will officially get underway today, July 23, 2021 after more than a year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the competition began on Wednesday with softball and football events, the opening ceremony will be held today when the world’s athletes will march behind their flag-bearers.
World number two in the women freestyle wrestling, Odunayo Adekuoroye, will lead Team Nigeria as the flag bearer during the opening ceremony at the New National Stadium, the main stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Adekuoroye, formerly ranked world number one in her weight class, is one of Team Nigeria’s finest medal prospects at the Tokyo Games having secured qualification at the 2019 Senior World Wrestling Championships held in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are expected to be a competition unlike the world has ever seen, however, it is likely to be a turning point for Nigerian sports after years of failure in the Olympics.
With some of the finest athletes in various events in Team Nigeria’s contingent, the West African nation will be the cynosure of all eyes when the Games officially get underway from today, July 24 to August 8, 2021.
Ever more than before, Team Nigeria’s mission to Tokyo Olympics is encouraged by the superlative performances of some of the nation’s top athletes in pre-Olympic trials and events which have given hope for possibilities of a haul of medals in Tokyo.
Speaking on Team Nigeria’s quest for podium performances at the Games, the minister of youth and sports development, Sunday Dare, said President Muhammadu Buhari-led government didn’t spare any dime in ensuring the country is well represented in Japan.
“We believe the team is capable of surpassing the six medals feat which included two gold medals achieved at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, U.S. Our athletes have been ranked in the top three in their respective events and will be competing against the same athletes they have been competing against in the last four, five years. We believe this can be our time. We have the support of His excellency, the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, as well as that of millions of Nigerians,” Dare said.
Across the sport lines, hopes are high – with the duo of Quadri Aruna and Olajide Omotayo presenting an interesting prospect in table tennis, not forgetting Funke Oshonaike, who will be participating in her seventh Olympics.
Aruna, is seeded number 15 among the 65 players competing in the men’s singles event at the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Games in Japan and was recently tipped by Reuters as one of the star players to watch at the Olympics, qualified for the event in Tokyo based on the International Table Tennis Federation (ITFF) world rating for the sport in Japan.
The Nigerian took the world by storm at the Rio 2016, when he became the first African to qualify for the quarterfinal stage at the Olympics. He is hoping to surpass it in Japan.
The wrestling squad led by Odunayo Adekuoroye look set to shock the world and bring home medals.
Speaking before departing Nigeria for Tokyo, the 27-year-old wrestler assured Nigerians that she will ‘definitely’ win a historic gold medal for the country at the Tokyo Olympics.
She said her gold medal performance at the United World Wrestling championship in Poland has infused her with enough confidence going to the Olympics.
“I’ve trained physically. Mentally, I have trained myself. And my coach has been on me every time. Even the President (Daniel Igali) still comes to our training just to teach me some things.
“So, having an Olympic champion (Daniel Igali) in my gym, having a world-class coach (Purity Akuh), and my training partners are doing brilliantly well. So, I don’t have any pressure going to the Olympics.
“I believe by the special grace of God; it’s my time to shine. So, I will definitely bring gold to Nigeria by His grace.
Eke Uche will be the first Artistic Gymnast to represent Nigeria at the Olympic Games. He started the journey to the Olympics from the African Games in 2019 where he won a gold and also a bronze medal.
Now 23, Eke has been doing gymnastics since he was four, so it has been part of his life. A graduate with honours in Computer Science Engineering from the University of Michigan, Eke possesses exceptional skills that could make him the cynosure of all eyes in Tokyo.
Also, Elizabeth Ayanacho, the 21-year-old is the first Nigerian female Taekwondo athlete to qualify for the Olympics in 16 years after Olympian Princess Dudu achieved the feat at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
Despite the limitations occasioned by COVID-19 and paucity of funds, Anyanacho and her mentor, Chika Chukwumerije, have in the past months worked tirelessly for a good outing in Tokyo.
The 300 Level Statistics undergraduate of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) has fought her way to the Olympic Games with a handful of national and international laurels to her credit, including the gold at Beirut Open. Seeded 13th in the Olympic ranking, Anyanacho will face fourth seed, Nur Tatar, from Turkey in the 67kg category in her first fight in the round of 16 on July 26.