How female athletes are driving Nigeria to global successes – Daily Trust

 Millions of Nigerian sports enthusiasts are presently in a joyous mood following the historic outing of Team Nigeria at the just concluded 2022 Commonwealth Games…
 Millions of Nigerian sports enthusiasts are presently in a joyous mood following the historic outing of Team Nigeria at the just concluded 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England.
Represented by 94 athletes in seven events, namely weightlifting, power-lifting, boxing, para-table tennis, athletics, boxing and table tennis, Team Nigeria produced their best ever performance in the games as they scooped an unprecedented 12 gold, 9 silver and 14 bronze for a total of 35 medals, finishing seventh out of 42 countries that participated in the games.
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Apart from the fact that Nigeria emerged the best African country at the multi-sports events in which she made her debut in 1950 in Auckland with a bronze medal, Team Nigeria broke and set four Commonwealth Games records and one world record in Birmingham.
The most intriguing and fascinating thing about Team Nigeria’s success story in England is that all the 12 gold medals that earned the country her enviable rating were won by female athletes in wrestling, weightlifting and athletic events. 
Team Nigeria’s best performance in Commonwealth Games was in 2014 in Glasgow Scotland, where the country amassed a total of 11gold, 8 silver and 14 gold medals with the female athletes led by Blessing Okagbare contributing nine gold medals.
It is, therefore, easy to understand why Nigerian sports fans are so ecstatic about the performance of the contingent to the 2022 Commonwealth Games, especially the outstanding performances of their female athletes.
The heroic deeds of the female athletes may come as a surprise to some Nigerians, but a former director-general of the defunct National Sports Commission (NSC), Alhassan Yakmut, said he was not surprised by the feats achieved by the young women.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Trust Saturday, the former Nigerian international volleyball player said, “Personally, the superlative performances of Team Nigeria’s women didn’t come to me as a surprise. It has been the trend in the past 25 years. Our best performances in international competitions have been limited to the women.
“I, therefore, agree with the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, who said the performance of Nigerian women in Birmingham was a proof of how much women could contribute to the image and development of the country
“Now, the events are 50-50 for male and female athletes. Therefore, it is the male gender that we must revive for podium performances,” Yakmut said.
However, as Nigerians continue to feast on the heart-warming performances of Team Nigeria in Birmingham, there are divergent opinions, with some attributing the success to individual brilliance of the athletes, who defied all the odds against them to win the laurels.
Considering the fact that Nigerian athletes are oftentimes starved of the necessary motivation before and during international competitions, such views can’t be said to be unfounded.
How female athletes are driving Nigeria to global successes 2
Therefore, the debate as to whether or not the Federal Ministry of Sports should take credit for the good outing of Team Nigeria in Birmingham has continued unabated.
But the ministry under Sunday Dare is also convinced that it was instrumental to the 35 podium appearances of Team Nigeria in England. Of course, there are enough evidences to collaborate the claims by the ministry.
Ministry’s role in the success story
Team Nigeria’s performance in Birmingham can’t be separated from the Adopt-An-Athlete initiative launched by the sports minister on December 2019 at the Lagos Civic Centre. This step was taken by the minister after discoveries were made that the root cause of the challenges athletes faced, which had impeded their performances at continental and global competitions, was lack of funding and scholarships.
Interestingly, substantial solutions to the above mentioned problems hitherto faced by athletes were found as soon as the initiative started in earnest.
At the moment, some home-based athletes receive as much as $10,000, paid directly into their accounts and managed solely by them. This takes care of their coaches, kits, nutrition and health insurance. And based on higher overhead, foreign-based athletes earn as much as $20,000.
To sustain this initiative, some states like Delta, Edo, Ogun, Lagos and Bayelsa, as well as corporate organisations like Fidelity Bank, Zenith Bank, UBA, Access Bank, adopted most of the athletes. 
Interestingly, most of the athletes who won medals in Birmingham are among the 38 beneficiaries of the Adopt-An-Athlete initiative of the sports minister. 
In addition, the ministry ensured that Team Nigeria didn’t go to England for jamboree as it was the practice in the past. Thus, Nigeria went to Birmingham with only 94 athletes, who featured in only 9 sports where the country is ranked amongst the top 50 in the world. It was a deliberate decision to feature athletes in events where Nigeria also has comparative advantage.
Unlike before, reward for victorious athletes was instant, as it is said that even before most of them competed in their games, they had their allowances available.
While gold medalists received as much as $5,000, silver medalists got $3,000. Bronze medalists receive $2,000. Cash rewards were also given to the coaches. These and other available incentives, no doubt, motivated the athletes to put in their best.
 Future of sports in Nigeria is with women – Ibrahim Galadima
Overwhelmed by the outstanding performances of Team Nigeria’s female athletes in Birmingham, one of Nigeria’s most respected sports administrators and patron of the Nigeria Olympics Committee (NOC), Alhaji Ibrahim Galadima, has concluded that the future of sports in Africa’s most populous country lies with women.
Speaking exclusively to Daily Trust Saturday, the chairman of the Kano State Sports Commission said, “Every Nigerian is elated at what happened in Birmingham. It is long we had such an outstanding performance. The performance of the young women is an indication that the future of Nigerian sports is with women.Ezoicreport this ad
“I hope and pray that we sustain the tempo. Managing success has been one of our major problems in sports. We have to keep a close watch on the victorious athletes as we prepare for the 2024 Olympic Games in France.  We have to maintain the standard we have set.
He, however, expressed dissatisfaction with Team Nigeria’s preparations before the games as he also attributed much of the success story to individual efforts of the athletes.
“We didn’t prepare adequately because even when it was close to the games, most of the athletes were not in closed camp. This has always been our problem. So most of what we were able to do show that there was individual brilliance and resilience on the part of the athletes.
Galadima, however, gave the Sports Ministry a pat on the back for paying more attention to athletes’ motivation by instantly rewarding winners with cash prizes.
“I am also impressed with the response from the ministry in terms of giving them winning bonuses almost immediately. I think that also spurred the athletes to do better.
“It shows that the ministry is becoming aware that motivation is key to success,” the former president of the then Nigeria Football Association said.
How Birmingham success can be sustained – Tijani Yusuf, Alhassan Yakmut
Meanwhile, two foremost Nigerian sports administrators, Dr Tijani Yusuf and a former director-general of the National Sports Commission (NSC), Alhassan Yakmut, in exclusive interviews with Daily Trust Saturday, called on the Ministry of Sports to sustain the momentum by taking sports development to the grassroots, where they believe more Tobi Amusans and Ese Brumes are waiting to be unearthed.
Dr Yusuf, who is a senior lecturer in the Department of Physical and Health Education, Bayero University, Kano, said the success of Team Nigeria in Birmingham was not an accidental.
He reiterated that the achievement in Birmingham was a result of hard work, scientific planning and developmental programmes that put the athletes in top shape for podium finishes.
Yusuf also commended the victorious female athletes for upstaging American and Jamaican rivals, even in events they (Americans) had dominated for decades.
The former secretary-general of the then Nigeria Football Association said, “If you look at things holistically, the women who made Nigeria proud did so in those areas that were dominated by Jamaicans and Americans.
“For instance, the 4x100m women’s relay team has broken the African record and set a new one so others will have to do more in order to either equal or surpass their record in Birmingham.”
The university don also said that to avoid what had become the bane of the female senior national team, the Super Falcons, there should be plans for the future, even as the country is still celebrating.
“We have to begin to prepare for the future. Talents abound in Nigeria. They are only waiting to be discovered. I want to appreciate the minister for some of his innovations in sports. He has done what Napoleon couldn’t do. I congratulate him and those who made the success possible,” Yusuf said.
Yakmut also lauded Team Nigeria, saying hope has been greatly rekindled by their superlative performances, especially the female athletes in Birmingham.
Furthermore, he painted a bright future for Nigeria in sports as he expressed happiness and satisfaction with the average age of the athletes.
“I think that in the history of this country, there is no better time that sports have healed it of so many problems than now. There is the problem of disunity, insecurity, poverty, inflation and so on. These are global challenges, anyway.
“The performances at the Commonwealth Games have rekindled the hope of Nigerians in their country and the younger generation.
“We should also plan to sustain the success. With the vibrant and talented youths we have, it shouldn’t take us years to achieve this performance. We need good administrators, good funding, upgrading of sporting facilities, regular international exposure for the athletes and strict adherence to anti-doping regulations to thrive.
“And if you look at the average age of those who competed, it is the youngest we have ever presented. This is one area most people haven’t looked at. The age bracket of our athletes is promising,” he noted.
Like Yusuf, the former NSC director-general also made a passionate appeal for grassroots sports development if the success story in Birmingham is to be sustained.
“Ese Brume was discovered at a grassroots competition in Lagos when I was the Director of Grassroots Sports Development in the Federal Ministry of Sports.
“So, we have to go back to the grassroots where these talents abound. If we have sustainable programmes as some of us have always proposed, our athletes will continue to make podium appearances,” he advised.
 Find below a complete list of the winners and their events:
Adijat Adenike Olarinoye (gold, women’s 55kg)
Edidiong Joseph Umaofia (bronze, men’s 67kg)
Rafiatu Folashade Lawal (gold, women’s 59kg)
Slamiyat Yusuf (bronze, women’s 64kg).
Taiwo Laidi (silver, women’s 76kg).
Mary Taiwo Osijo (bronze, women’s 87kg)
Chioma Onyekwere (gold, women’s discus throw)
Obiageri Amaechi (bronze, women’s discus throw)
Favour Ofili (silver, women’s 200m)
Amusan Tobi (gold, women’s 100m, hurdles)
Onwuzurike Udodi Chudi, Ashe Favour Oghene Tejiri, Akintola Alaba Olukunle, Ekevwo Raymond (bronze medal, men’s 4 x 100m)
Amusan Tobi, Ofili Favour, Chukwuma Rosemary, Nwokocha Nzubechi Grace, Udo Joy Gabriel Chinenye (gold, women’s 4 x 100m).
Ese Brume (gold, women’s long jump)
Goodness Chiemere Nwachukwu (gold, women’s discus throw F 42-44/61-64)
Eucharia Njideka Iyiazi (gold, women’s F55 – 57, shot put)
Ugochi Constaine Alam (bronze, women’s F55 – 57, shot put)
Alice Folashade Oluwafemiayo (gold, women’s heavyweight)
Bose Patricia Omolayo (silver, women’s heavyweight)
Ikechukwu Christian Obichukwu (silver, men’s heavyweight)
Innocent Nnamdi (bronze, men’s lightweight)
Adekuoroye Odunayo (gold, women’s freestyle 57kg)
Kolawole Esther (bronze, women’s freestyle 62kg)
Oborodudu Blessing (gold, women’s freestyle 68kg)
Genesis Mercy (gold, women’s freestyle, 50kg)
Wilson Ebikewemino (silver, men’s freestyle 57kg)
Hannah Reuben (silver, women’s freestyle 76kg)
John Ogbonna Emmanuel (bronze, men’s freestyle 74kg)
Para-table tennis
Ikpeoyi Ifechukwude Christiana (silver, women’s singles classes 3-5)
Sule Nasiru (silver, men’s singles classes 3-5)
Ogunkunle Isau (bronze, men’s singles classes 3-5)
Obazuaye Faith (bronze, women’s singles classes 6-10)
Onyekwere Ifeanyi (bronze, men’s over 92kg, super heavyweight)
Umunnake Jacinta (bronze, women’s 75kg)
Ogunsemilore Cynthia (bronze, women’s over 57kg-60kg, light weight)
Oshoba Elizabeth (silver, over 54kg-57kg, featherweight)
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