Nigeria’s world para powerlifting champion, Yakubu Adesokan, arrived in Tokyo yesterday night to light up the Team Nigeria camp in expectation for early entry on the medals table.
Competition in para powerlifting at the Tokyo Paralympics starts today, Thursday with Adesokan taking the first go in the 48kg category.
He is joined by Latifat Tijani, gold medalist at the Brazzaville 2015 Africa Games and silver medalist at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, who will also be in the women’s 45kg straight gold medal contest the same day.
Adesokan, a London 2012 Paralympic and 2014 World Para Powerlifting Championships gold medalist is world favourite for gold in Tokyo, going by his record 180kg lift.
He did not come early with the rest of the team on August 14 and 21 due to circumstances unforeseen and beyond human control.
While his arrival has sent jitters on challengers from other countries, he however faces an acid test for quick recovery from the long (almost 20 hours) trip from Nigeria and the long and tiring immigration and health check processes at the Tokyo International Airport, Narita, then to match out for action by 11am the next day.
Adesokan however exuded confidence as he emerged from the departure lounge, indicating his readiness for the task.
His disposition is to make good the gold medal he lost in Rio 2016 when he missed his way to the competition venue and arrived too late for the contest.
Meanwhile, five of six Nigerian table tennis entries lost their opening matches on Wednesday to begin their Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games campaign.
All hope is however not lost as they remain in great physical and mental shape to salvage their chances in the games ahead.
In the men’s singles, Sydney 2000 gold medalist, Tajudeen Agunbiade, was not at his best against Mai Ivan of Ukraine, losing in three straight sets, 5-11; 7-11 and 6-11.
Ahmed Koleosho who was at the Rio 2016 Games also lost in three straight sets of 5-11; 3-11 and 8-11 to Bruechl Thomas of Germany in class C.
It was the same for Olufemi Alao who lost at 6-11, 4-11 and 9-11 to Lian Hao of China after conceding 16 points from his serves just as Agunbiade did.
Farinloye Victor however put up a strong fight against Ukrainian Didukh Victor, shaking off a 6-11 first set deficit to take the next two sets, 11-7, 11-9, but Didukh had the upper hand in the succeeding sets, finishing at 11-9 and 11-3 to win the match with 3-2.
In the women’s singles, Faith Bazuaye, the only woman in the team, started fairly well against Tien Shiau Wen of China, only narrowly losing the first set in 9-11 but the Chinese came out harder to dismiss her at 11-3, 11-3 in the succeeding sets for three straight win over the Nigerian.
Coach Sunday Odebode sure has some more peps to do as all six players have scheduled to be on board again on Thursday, August 26, to redeem their chances.