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Egypt, Nigeria unassailable as curtains fall on 2023 African Games

As the curtains fall on the 2023 African Games in Ghana, Egypt who have become serial winners of the ‘continental Olympic Games’ are poised to…

As the curtains fall on the 2023 African Games in Ghana, Egypt who have become serial winners of the ‘continental Olympic Games’ are poised to win their seventh title as Team Nigeria are also sure of finishing the games in second position for the sixth time.

The only time Nigeria won the African Games was in 2003 when the country hosted the 8th edition in the city of Abuja. It is said the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo spent over N38 billion to provide facilities for the games.

Even as the Pharaohs have again proved their sporting might in Accra, it wasn’t a dismal showing as Nigerian athletes also maintain their area of dominance at the games despite the threat from South Africa, Algeria, Tunisia and Ghana.

Just as the Egyptians have remained dominant in sports like table tennis, weightlifting, swimming, judo and karate, Team Nigeria showed clearly that they are still formidable in wrestling, weightlifting, athletics, and table tennis, even as they now appear to be playing a second fiddle to Egypt in the ping pong game.

Team Nigeria’s preparation for the games wasn’t the best the athletes desired but with their inherent determination, doggedness, perseverance and resilience, the Nigerians again dominated in their strongholds as there was no stopping them in athletics, weightlifting, and wrestling.

With a total of 350 athletes, Team Nigeria won at least a medal in almost all the 23 events. As usual, athletics and weightlifting lifted Team Nigeria well above South Africa, Algeria Tunisia, and the host country Ghana, who had made feeble attempts to dislodge Nigeria from the second position.

Even in the absence of accomplished athletes like Blessing Okagbare, Raymond Ekevwo, Favour Ofili and a host of others who led Nigeria’s charge for medals at the last games in Rabat, Morocco, Nigeria athletics in Accra, Ghana lived up to their pre-games favourites tag as world record holder, Tobi Amusan, Chidi Okezie, Usheoritse Iteskiri, Ese Brume, Ruth Usoro inspired the new generation of athletes to podium appearances.

Consequently, it was another glorious outing, as at the time of press, athletics alone had contributed 9 gold, three silver, and two bronze medals to Nigeria’s medal haul. Expectedly, Amusan won her third consecutive gold medal in the women’s 100m hurdles in style, Brume bagged her second African Games gold medal in long jump, Chidi Okezie spectacularly upgraded his bronze at the last games to gold in the 400m just as Ruth Usoro also clinched gold in the triple jump event. There were also gold medals from Chukuwebuka Enekwechi in men’s shot put as Team Nigeria won other gold medals in both men and women’s 4x100m relay and the mixed 4×400m relay which dominated the headlines at the games. 

Apart from the gold medals, Usheoritse Itsekiri, Esther Joseph, Chioma Onyekwere and Kemi Francis Petersen won silver medals in men’s 100m, women’s 400m, women’s discuss throw and women’s heptathlon respectively as Olayinka, Oyesade Olatoye and Prestina Ochonogor each won bronze in women’s 100m, women’s hammer throw and women’s long jump for athletics’ nine gold, four silver and three bronze medals.

Team weightlifting also scooped 16 gold, 10 silver, and six bronze medals to give the Egyptians a run for their money. As a matter of fact, in a single day, Edidiong Umoafia, Ajijat Olarionye, and Rafiatu Lawal won three gold medals each in their respective events. Interestingly, the following day, Ruth Ayodele and Joy Ogbonne Eze repeated the same feat in women’s 64kg and 71kg total, snatch as well as clean and jerk event. Mary Osijo also contributed one gold in women’s 87kg clean and jerk. 

Also, the 10th of March, 2024, will remain indelible in the memory of most Nigerian sports fans as six of the country’s wrestlers swept all available gold medals in women’s wrestling. The usual suspects, Olympic silver medallist Blessing Oborududu and world champion, Odunaya Adekuroye, started the medal rush before their compatriots Mercy Genesis, Christiana Ogunsaya, Esther Kolawole, and Hannah Reuben followed suit for a historic performance that was complemented by the arm wrestlers who also won four gold, two silver and seven bronze medals.

Although majority of the medals came from the stable of weightlifting, athletics and women’s wrestling, there were also some joyous moments in badminton as Africa’s number player, Anuoluwapo Juwon Opeyori, edged his compatriot Godwin Olofua to retain his gold medal just as the duo later combined to win silver in men’s doubles event. Unfortunately, former African champion Dorcas Ajokke Adesokan dropped from second to third as she only picked up bronze in the women’s singles event. There were two more bronze medals in badminton for Team Nigeria in women’s doubles and men’s singles. So, badminton contributed one gold, two silver, and three bronze to Team Nigeria’s medals.

In taekwondo, Elizabeth Anyanacho won gold in women’s -67kg while her teammates Mahmadou Amadou and Maman Chipkaou won silver and bronze respectively in men’s -54kg and -63kg to signal Team Nigeria’s impact in the combat sport.

Unfortunately, table tennis which used to be Nigeria’s stronghold has failed to deliver a single gold medal as the star-studded squad led by former Africa’s number one player Aruna Quadri and Offiong Edem only managed to win three silver and three bronze medals. Although highly rated with an intimidating profile, Quadri ended with another silver as his search for the elusive gold continues. 

It is also worthy to note that even as they were unable to match the performance of athletics and weightlifting, tennis, swimming, judo, cricket, karate, cycling and beach volleyball won one bronze each just as chess managed to win  two bronze medals at the games.

The poor output in judo, swimming, cricket and the rest is not doubt a signal that the respective federations must do more to lift the standard of the sports in the country.

So, as the curtains fall on the 13th edition of the African Games which started on March 8, only a miracle will stop Egypt who had already amassed 94 gold, 43 silver and 38 bronze from winning the well-attended games in Accra, Ghana.

At the time of press, Team Nigeria with 37 gold, 26 silver and 35 bronze was still hunting for more medals to surpass or at least match their performance of 46 gold, 36 silver and 48 bronze medals at the last edition of the African Games in Rabat, Morocco.

Even if Team Nigeria is unable to surpass their record of 130 medals in 2019, Nigerians will savour for a long time some of the breathing-taking performances of the country’s athletes like Okezie and Omolara, a mother of two, who did the unimaginable when she anchored and literally brought back the mixed 4×400m relay squad from the death to win gold in a manner that stunned the whole world. In addition, the blistering speed with which the energetic Nigerian men overpowered the defending champions Ghana to win the 4x100ms relay gold won’t fade away easily in the memory of sports loving Nigerians. 

However, as the 2023 African Games end today, the talking point for most Nigerians will no doubt be the failure of the women’s football team, the Falconets to defend their gold medal. The girls underperformed when it mattered most and lost 1-2 to their Ghanaian counterparts in extra time on Thursday night. Sadly, Nigeria’s Flying Eagles had crashed out of the men’s football event at the group stage.

Meanwhile, Egypt will host the next edition of the African Games in 2027.


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