Nigeria’s contingent to the just concluded Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan is back with laurels that have done the nation proud for which they deserve to be commended. This is not the first time that the nation’s Paralympians will compete in a manner that will endear them and their performance to sporting Nigeria.
At the end of the competition in Tokyo, Team Nigeria won four gold medals, one silver, and five bronze medals from three events. Powerlifting accounted for six — three gold, one silver, and two bronze. Athletics one gold and two bronze; while a bronze medal was earned from table tennis. The overall medal haul is just two short of Nigeria’s record set in Rio 2016 where Nigeria won 12 medals.
We recall that Team Nigeria presented a total of 22 para-athletes across 4 sports — athletics (5), powerlifting (10), table tennis (6), and rowing (1). Lauritta Onye won bronze in the women F40 shot put event and Flora Ugwunwa added ice on the cake with gold in the F54 javelin event. In powerlifting, Bose Omolayo set a new Paralympic Record (PR) with a lift of 141kg in the women’s -79kg category. Also, Oluwafemiayo Folashade set a new World and Paralympics Record (WR & PR) with a lift of 152kg in the -86kg category.
Tijani Latifat won Nigeria’s first medal at the Paralympics winning the gold medal in the women’s -45kg para-powerlifting. she bettered her performance at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, where she won a silver medal. Lucy Ejike and Ibrahim Olaitan also won bronze medals in para-powerlifting.
This newspaper note that team Nigeria in the Tokyo Olympics last month put up one of the worst ever performances in the quadrennial tournament. The Tokyo Olympics was marred by controversies. First, PUMA had entered a sponsorship deal with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) in July 2019, in Doha and the team, at the end of the day, didn’t wear the PUMA jersey which led to the termination of the contract.
Another show of shame in the Olympics was the disqualification of 10 out of Nigeria’s 23 track and field athletes because they did not meet the minimum testing requirements under Rule 15 of the Anti-Doping Rules.
Notwithstanding, this editorial is about the stellar performance of Team Nigeria at the Paralympics. At the world event in Tokyo, these Paralympians had a controversy-free tournament in spite of the fact that they are usually not given enough support by government at all levels the way their counterparts are pampered.
Before the competition, a paralympics gold-medallist, Omolayo, had lamented the plight of the country’s physically- challenged athletes. She called on the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, to fulfill his promises to them.
She said that the minister made some promises to them and appealed to endeavour to fulfill his promises. “The car he promised us, he should make it a reality. President Buhari too should not forget about us because the physically challenged athletes are suffering,” Omolayo said.
We join our voice with hers in appealing to the federal government, through the minister to redeem those promises as one of the ways of encouraging them to win more laurels for themselves and for the nation as a whole.
Historically, Nigeria made its Paralympic Games début at the 1992 Summer Paralympics in Barcelona when they sent a delegation of six men to compete in track and field, powerlifting and table tennis, and they have been consistently making the country proud. The Paralympians have won 80 medals so far. Among the 80 medals are 40 gold. This is no small feat and they deserve all the accolades they are attracting to themselves.
In the considered opinion of this newspaper, more attention needs to be provided to the Paralympians as they have proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are consistent performers and with the right motivation and encouragement they can achieve more.
Accordingly, the federal and state governments need to pay more attention to sports. States should develop sports they have comparative advantage in. In our opinion, we strongly suggest that states with high altitude like Taraba and Adamawa can specialize in long distance race like the East Africans who have made the sports their own. States in the riverine areas would do well to develop swimming.
The government and private institutions should invest massively in sports and also develop other sports apart from the usuals. The more athletes the country is able to take to the Olympics and other international sporting events, the more the chances of winning honours.
In view of the foregoing, we call on the federal government to redeem its pledge to our Paralympians. Needless to say, they are heroes who have made the nation proud.