Chronicling compelling achievements of Nigerian sports amazons in uplifting a nation in crisis

At a time when insecurity and political uncertainty, coupled with hardship induced by spiralling inflation enveloped the country, leaving the majority of us to grapple with the proverbial “one day one trouble”; Nigerians in a space of two weeks were in a sort of Cloud 9, with the nations athletes writing the name of the Country in Bold and Gold prints.

Having qualified for the FIFA Women Under-17 World Cup to be hosted in India; and punched her ticket to the Under-20 World Cup to be hosted by Costa Rica; Nigeria completed the sequence when the nation’s senior national team, the Super Falcons qualified for the world cup to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Despite achieving this feat of qualifying from every Women’s World Cup, since it was inaugurated in 1991, there was a sort of palpable gloom in the land as the dominance of the nine-time African Champions, was breached by an emerging force in the women’s game the Atlas Lionesses of Morocco, who ousted Nigeria in the semifinal.

The Falcons eventually had to settle for fourth, after losing the Bronze medal match 0-1 to another emerging force, the Copper Queens of Zambia.

But any gloom and negative effects of both loses were soon brushed aside by followers of women’s football, thanks to the heroics of former Captain of the Super Falcons and FC Barcelona Feminine of Spain striker, Asissat Oshoala; who was crowned African Player of the Year (Women) for a record fifth time.

Hardly had the euphoria gone down, did Oluwatobilola Amusan lower the African Record in the 100 meters women’s Hurdle. Tobilola who hails from Ijebu-Ode, and until seven years ago was still in the shores of the country further lowered her own record during the qualifiers at the World Athletics Championships held in Oregon, USA.

The 24 year old then went on to set a new World Record in the semifinals by crossing the line in a time of 12.12 Second, 0.08 Seconds lower than the former World Record, and but for a Tail Wind of about 2.5, her winning time of 12.06 Seconds in the final, on the same night would have been another World Record, that will go down as a stunning performance in World Athletics.

After 36 years Nigeria had her first World Champion, and record holder in Athletics, in the person of Tobilola; When some thought she may take a rest after her heroics at the World, Tobi joined up with Team Nigeria in Birmingham for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

In fact her arrival in camp, along with World Athletics Silver Medalist, and 2020 Olympics Bronze medal winner in women’s long jump, Ese Brume, injected a lot of positive vibes into other athletes, and for the first time, Nigerians were in confident mood for a good performance at the quadrennial games.

Alas! The story just got interesting as Team Nigeria eventually ended the competition, which she competed for medals in nine sports disciplines with a total of 94 athletes, with 12 Gold 9 Silver and 14 Bronze Medals, to place seventh on the overall table and first in the log for African countries.

Most eye-catching was the fact that all twelve Gold medalists were women, and remarkably it followed the sequence of how the nation’s female sportsmen have won laurels, silverware and brought honour to a country in deficit of good tidings in recent times.

The performances of the entire team, but especially of the Women, twelve of whom won Gold made it possible for Nigeria to record its best outing in Commonwealth Games history, surpassing previous records set at the Victoria Games in 1994 and in Delhi in 2014.

Not forgetting those who won Silver and Bronze medals, the unsung heroes and heroines who should also be celebrated, Tobilola ran a time of 12:30 Secs in 100 meters hurdles to set a new Games Record, while retaining her title as champion in the event; while Ese Brume did 6.99 meters and later 7.00 meters to reclaim her Commonwealth championship, while setting two new records.

From President Muhammad Buhari who has announced a Presidential Reception for the star girls, Oluwatobilola Amusan and Ese Brume;
Youth and Sports Minister, Sunday Dare; the leadership of the National Association of Women in Sports (NAWIS); down to the ordinary Nigerian, have widely lauded the announcement of Mr President for this.
In a statement, NAWIS who had predicted that the Ladies will be dominant at the Games in Birmingham; reserved special praise for the twelve Gold medalists, and named them brand ambassadors for helping to redefine Nigeria in the eyes of the world.

In the statement, President of NAWIS, Professor Bola Adeyanju extoled the nation’s sports women as amazing amazons, and the podium athletes who embraced the Nigerian flag with infectious joy, to the amazement of the world, as the future of this nation, in that their indomitable spirits should be tapped and channeled toward building a robust Nigeria of our dreams.

In precise terms she commended and congratulate the amazing quartet in Women’s 4×400 meters Relay – Favour Ofili, Rosemary Chukwuma, Grace Nwokocha and the superlative golden girl, Tobi Amusan, Blessing Oborududu, Odunayo Adekuoroye, Adijat Adenike Olarinoye, Miesinnei Mercy Genesis, Rafiatu Folashade Lawal, Folashade Oluwafemilayo, Eucharia Iyiazi, Chioma Onyekwere and Goodness Nwachukwu who all won Gold medals in their respective events.

The lesson there-in is that Nigeria should invest much more on the Girl Child as there are still many Tobis and Ese Brumes, waiting to be discovered and nurtured to stardom.

According to Professor Adeyanju this investment should be targeted at Girls of School age, with a streamlined policy of molding them as tomorrow’s world beaters, whose growth has been carefully planned to have a fusion of academics and sports.

On our part, NAWIS will continue to encourage for a conducive environment for female Nigerians in order to enable them excel in Sports.

Prof. Adeyanju is the President of NAWIS.