The much-awaited paralympic games are set to begin as the opening ceremonies commence today.
Twenty-two athletes will be representing Team Nigeria in the Tokyo 2020 games this year.
It would be recalled that the last edition, at Rio 2016 in Brazil, was the most successful outing for Team Nigeria, which became Africa’s best team and 17th overall on the medal table with eight gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
In Tokyo, Team Nigeria Paralympians will participate in four events: Para Powerlifting, Para-Athletics, Para-Table Tennis and Para-Rowing.
The first Paralympics debut for Team Nigeria was far back Barcelona 92, with six athletes who came back with three gold medals.
Nigeria’s largest contingent to the games was in Sydney 2000 with 31 Paralympic Athletes when Team Nigeria returned home with 13 medals.
The team captain, Lucy Ejike (44) who would be featuring in her sixth Paralympics after making her debut at Sydney 2000, has promised that the contingent would surpass the record at Rio 2016.
Ejike won a medal in each of the games she has been in, winning gold medals in 2004, 2008 and 2016 and silver medals in 2000 and 2012.
The 22 athletes on the team are:
Flora Ugwunwa – Athletics – F Iyiazi Njideka. – Athletics – F Lauritta Onye. – Athletics – F Nwaozu Chituru – Athletics – F Galadima Suwaibidu – Athletics – M Tijani Latifat. – Powerlifting – F Ejike Lucy. – Powerlifting – F Ibrahim Mujinat – Powerlifting – F Omolayo Bose. – Powerlifting – F Obiji Lovelyn. – Powerlifting – F Oluwafemiayo Folashade -Powerlifting- F Okpala Pauline – Powerlifting – F Ibrahim Dauda – Powerlifting – M Yakubu Adesokan – Powerlifting – M Innocent Nnamdi – Powerlifting – M Ijeoma Kingsley – Rowing – M Fairh Obazuaye – Table Tennis – F Tajudeen Agunbiade – Table Tennis – M Olufemi Alabi Olabiyi – Table Tennis – M Ahmed Koleosho – Table Tennis – M Ogunkunle Isau – Table Tennis – M Farinoye Victor – Table Tennis – M
Wrestler Adijat Idris lost out to Ukraine’s Oksana Livach in the quarter-final of the 50kg women’s freestyle event on Friday morning to end Nigeria’s hopes of adding more medals to its cabinet at the Tokyo Olympics.
Livach defeated the 19-year-old 10-0 by technical knockout, meaning Team Nigeria ended the Games with two medals.
Nigeria’s only medals were from Blessing Oborududu and Ese Brume. Brume won a bronze medal in the women’s long jump event, while Oborududu clinched silver in the women’s freestyle 68kg wrestling category to rekindle the country’s battered hopes in an Olympic where ten of its athletes were suspended.
The country’s participation at the Olympics was marred by internal squabbles which many observers blamed for the athletes’ outing in Tokyo.
Several athletes had raised concerns over their welfare before and during the Games in the Asian nation.
Earlier in the week, shot-putter Chukwuebuka Enekwechi made headlines after he posted a video of himself washing his “only” jersey ahead of the event, providing further insights into the welfare of the country’s contingents.
He later assured everyone that all was fine and battle-ready for the final – where he ended 12th.
Sportswear giants Puma’s termination of its four-year contract with the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN) further highlighted the leadership crisis in the federation which has marred preparations for Tokyo.
“As a direct consequence of the recent developments, particularly at the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 and pursuant to clauses 9.2 and 7.3 of the Agreement,” the company said, “we hereby terminate the Agreement with immediate effect.”
As Vice President Yemi Osinbajo told the Nigerian contingent before their departure, they opened “a page in history” for themselves and the country can draw many positives from their outing in Japan despite the disappointments.
For the first time, the nation had a gymnast at the Games – Uche Eke – as well as in the Canoeing Sprint with Ayomide Bello.
On the track, Enoch Adegoke broke a 25-year jinx as the first Nigerian to reach the final of the men’s 100m event. He ran 10.00secs but could not finish the final race due to injury. In 1996, Davidson Ezinwa became the first Nigerian to achieve the feat.
Oborududu, the 10-time African champion, also wrote her name in Nigeria’s Olympics folklore when she became the first Nigerian to win a medal in wrestling on the biggest sports competition in the world.
Enoch Adekoge failed to finish at the 100 metres men’s final event in Tokyo today, leaving Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs to claim Olympic gold in the keenly-contested race.
While Lamont on Sunday broke retired Jamaican star Usain Bolt’s 13-year hold on the blue riband event, Nigeria’s Adegoke was forced to stop midway, holding his thighs, with anguish boldly written all over his face.
Jacobs, 26, timed a European record of 9.80 seconds, with American Fred Kerley taking silver in 9.84sec in one of the most understated major 100m races in recent times.
Canada’s Andre de Grasse, a bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, repeated the feat as he ran a 9.89seconds.
Adegoke who in the course of the competition had broken Nigeria’s records in athletics, on Sunday became Nigeria’s first 100m Olympic finalist since 1996 clocking 10.00s in heat 2 of men’s 100m semis.
He used the biggest platform in sports, the Olympics to join the exclusive club of sub-10 seconds runners after running 9.98 seconds to win his first-round heat which also booked his place in the semi-finals of the 100m event in Tokyo.
With this feat, he becomes the 11th Nigerian in history to run a sub 10.
3rd Nigerian male to run 100m final
Adegoke raced again into Nigerian history books as the third man to make the final of the 100m event at the Olympics after the duo of Davidson Ezinwa and Olapade Adeniken.
The reigning Nigeria speed king had given himself a chance of making history when he came second behind Britain’s Zhana Hughes to secure the second automatic slot and qualify for the final.
The other Nigerian in the event, Ushoritse Itshekiri pulled up at the finish to exit the competition with a 10.29 seconds performance. He ran 10.15 seconds in his first-round heat.
The United States Women’s basketball team have extended their Olympics winning streak to an incredible 50 games, although they were forced to labour for it against an impressive and determined Nigerian team.
Nigeria’s D’Tigress lost to the U.S. team 72-81 in the preliminary round Group B opener at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo.
The result confirmed Team USA has been flawless since the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona. It was not a pretty performance by the Americans, but they managed to get the job done.
In the first quarter, Nigeria showed good control and tenacity on the defensive end and caught the American off guard early in the game. At the end of the first quarter, Nigeria led 20-17 and had forced eight turnovers from the US women.
But the defending Olympic champions bounced back in the second quarter and dominated the game. At one point in the second quarter, they ripped off a 23-0 run, won the quarter 27-12, and built a double-digit lead at the break. At this stage, they were never in danger of losing the game.
Team USA won the third quarter 26-18 and got a little lackadaisical towards the end of the fourth quarter and the D’Tigress took control, dominated the match, and won it 22-11 to narrow the winning margin by just nine points.
‘Next Game Will Be Better’
Just last week, in an exhibition game in Las Vegas to prepare for the Olympic Games, USA humiliated Nigeria 93-62 points and D’Tigress coach, Otis Hughley, can use the latest result to motivate his team ahead of games against France and Japan.
At the post-match briefing, Hughley admitted he would have preferred playing another team in the opening game.
“It’s like starting your boxing career and they tell you you’re fighting Muhammad Ali (USA) in his prime. Now that is not something you’re looking for. ‘I want to box, but I don’t want to box that bad’” he said.
Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, said he was so proud of the Nigerian ladies and their performance despite the outcome of the game.
“I watched the game from the start to the end. Every moment. I saw players who can fight, and they fought.
“From 20 points disadvantage, they climbed back steadily, the height and built of the Americans notwithstanding. The next game will be better. I trust them. Going up against the Americans as they did, our team is good and can be better,” he said.
Nigeria’s D’Tigress will be back on the court on Friday for their second Group B match against the French team.
Reigning champions Brazil were held to a goalless draw by the Ivory Coast in the men’s Olympic football competition on Sunday, while Andre-Pierre Gignac’s hat-trick in a 4-3 win over South Africa kept France’s hopes alive.
Brazil, who won gold for the first time five years ago on home soil in Rio, could have moved to the brink of qualification for the knock-out stage in Yokohama but were denied by a stubborn Ivory Coast.
It could have been worse, though, as they had to play more than an hour with 10 men after Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz’s 13th-minute red card for bringing down Youssouf Dao when he was through on goal.
Eboue Kouassi’s late dismissal evened up the numbers, but the Ivorians held on as former Barcelona winger Malcom missed a late chance for the South Americans.
Brazil lead Group D on goal difference ahead of their final game of the opening phase against Saudi Arabia, who lost 3-2 to Germany to be eliminated from the competition.
Felix Uduokhai’s 75th-minute goal gave Germany, who had Amos Pieper sent off midway through the second half, a crucial three points.
The Germans, looking to win men’s gold for the first time as a unified nation, will reach the next round with victory over the Ivory Coast in three days’ time.
France would have been staring at an early exit with a slip-up against South Africa, but veteran striker Gignac rescued Les Bleus in a pulsating match in Saitama.
The Group A encounter burst into life after a goalless first half, which saw South African midfielder Luther Singh miss a penalty, as Kobamelo Kodisang put the underdogs ahead eight minutes after the restart.
The 35-year-old Gignac, captaining France in Japan, levelled shortly afterwards, only for Evidence Makgopa to restore South Africa’s slender lead in the 72nd minute.
Former Marseille star Gignac, who last played for the French senior team in 2016, equalised again.
Teboho Mokoena thought he had won the match with just nine minutes to play with a wonderful curling strike that flew in off the crossbar, but Gignac slotted home his fourth goal of the tournament from the penalty spot five minutes later.
There was still time for France to snatch a winner, as Gignac found Teji Savanier to drill in a low strike in the second minute of added time.
“After each South African goal it felt a little more like we were on the plane back,” said Gignac, who has played for Mexican club Tigres since 2015.
“We saw the joy after Teji’s goal and we gave ourselves a final against Japan. With heart, we can do well. We don’t want to return to France.”
South Africa, who were hit by two players testing positive for Covid-19 in the Olympic Village before the tournament started, will need to beat Mexico in their last group game and hope Japan get the better of France to have any chance of making the last eight.
The hosts held on to register their second straight win with a 2-1 success against Mexico, who are second above France on goal difference.
Goals from Real Madrid youngster Takefusa Kubo and Ritsu Doan put them in control inside the first 11 minutes and it proved enough despite Roberto Alvarado halving the deficit.
Spain moved to the top of Group C as Mikel Oyarzabal’s late strike — their first goal of the tournament — downed Australia 1-0. Argentina beat Egypt 1-0.
In Group B, Honduras came from behind to beat New Zealand 3-2 and South Korea thrashed 10-man Romania 4-0 to leave all four teams on three points.
World number one Ashleigh Barty crashed out of the Olympics women’s singles tennis tournament in the opening round on Sunday, losing 6-4, 6-3 to Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo.
Barty, the reigning Wimbledon champion, dropped serve twice in each set and made 55 unforced errors compared to just 13 for her opponent.
“I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to get through today, it just wasn’t my day. Credit to Sara though, she is always a tough competitor,” said Barty, the first women’s top seed to lose in the first round at the Olympics.
“I never really felt comfortable out there and wasn’t able to play the match on my terms. The key to my game is serving well and I wasn’t able to do that today. I was a bit erratic and made too many errors.”
“I felt like I had to be aggressive today and she made me press and overplay,” she added.
Sorribes Tormo, ranked 48th, will go on to face France’s Fiona Ferro in the second round.
“It’s an amazing feeling, I still can’t believe it,” she said.
“It’s something incredible for me. It’s something that I’ve been dreaming of all my life, being here and even more so beating the world number one. I’m super, super happy.”
While Barty’s bid to become the first Australian singles gold medallist in tennis ended prematurely, she and partner Storm Sanders are through to the second round of the women’s doubles.
Barty could potentially come up against Sorribes Tormo again in the quarter-finals of that competition. Sorribes Tormo and Paula Badosa reached the last 16 by beating Mexican duo Giuliana Olmos and Renata Zarazua.
Sorribes Tormo dismissed concerns over playing twice on the same day as the International Tennis Federation’s extreme weather policy was activated with temperatures again reaching 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) in Tokyo.
The rules call for a 10-minute break, if requested, between the second and third sets once the reading goes above 30.1 Celsius, while changeovers and set breaks have been extended by 30 seconds.
“It doesn’t matter the conditions. We are here to play, we are here to enjoy and that’s what we will try to do,” said Sorribes Tormo.
Carla Suarez Navarro secured her first win after recovering from cancer as she defeated Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur in the first round of the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday.
The Spaniard, a former world number six, returned to action at the French Open last month having been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in September 2020.
She lost in the first round at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon, where she was beaten in three sets by eventual champion Ashleigh Barty.
But Suarez Navarro, playing at her fourth Olympics, won for the first time since February of last year, beating Wimbledon quarter-finalist Jabeur 6-4, 6-1.
“I am really happy. For me, it was tough all these months. I was so happy on the court and I really enjoyed this week,” said Suarez Navarro, who underwent eight sessions of chemotherapy as part of her recovery.
“This is a really special event for me, for us, for everyone. I am really happy for my first win after the comeback.”
Suarez Navarro plans to retire following the US Open in New York, but is hoping to round off her farewell tour with a flourish. She will play Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova in the second round in Japan.
“It was difficult, but I was practising a lot. I was trying to win at Roland Garros and Wimbledon but (it) was not possible,” said Suarez Navarro.
“But here I am feeling really good, and I played a really good match today, and I am looking forward to the next one.”
France’s bid for men’s Olympic football glory got off to a nightmare start with a 4-1 defeat by Mexico on Thursday, while Richarlison scored a hat-trick as reigning champions Brazil beat Germany in a six-goal thriller.
Sylvain Ripoll’s France are looking for a first Olympic medal since winning gold in 1984, but collapsed in the second half at Tokyo Stadium.
“We’re obviously disappointed with the result but also with the balance of our play,” said former Lorient boss Ripoll.
“To compete, we would’ve needed a big performance, but that wasn’t the case.”
Mexico took the lead less than two minutes after the break through Alexis Vega, before Sebastian Cordova doubled their advantage in the 55th minute.
The 35-year-old captain Andre-Pierre Gignac, whose last game for the French senior team was the Euro 2016 final loss to Portugal, pulled one back from the penalty spot with 21 minutes remaining.
But any thoughts of a comeback were quashed as Uriel Antuna and Eduardo Aguirre netted late on for 2012 champions Mexico.
France now face a tough task to get out of Group A with a top-two finish, ahead of games against Covid-hit South Africa on Sunday and hosts Japan on July 28.
“The first thing we now have to do is digest this disappointment,” added Ripoll. “We only have two days. There’s no time to waste.”
Japan saw off South Africa, who had two players test positive for Covid-19 on Sunday, 1-0 thanks to Takefusa Kubo’s second-half strike.
Brazil, who won gold for the first time when inspired by Neymar on home soil five years ago in Rio, downed Germany 4-2 in a dramatic match which saw forward Richarlison net a first-half hat-trick.
The Everton man scored three times inside the first half an hour, but Matheus Cunha missed a penalty and Germany then threatened an unlikely second-half comeback.
Bayer Leverkusen’s Nadiem Amiri pulled one back before the hour mark, and although Maximilian Arnold was sent off shortly afterwards, substitute Ragnar Ache cut the deficit to one goal with seven minutes of the 90 left.
But it was another Leverkusen player, Paulinho, who came off the bench and put the match to bed for Brazil in the fourth minute of stoppage time.
Ivory Coast also picked up three points in Group D as AC Milan’s Franck Kessie netted the match-clinching goal in a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia.
Spain struggled in Sapporo, as a team featuring six players who reached the Euro 2020 semi-finals dominated possession but created few chances in a 0-0 draw with Egypt.
The closest they came to a goal was when Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos, who recently spent two seasons on loan at Arsenal, crashed a first-half shot against the post.
Spain, winners on home soil in 1992, next take on Australia in three days’ time before their final Group C match with Argentina.
Australia took early control in the table, as goals from Lachlan Wales and Marco Tilio saw them beat 10-man Argentina 2-0.
New Zealand made a successful start in Group B as Burnley striker Chris Wood, one of the three over-age players in the squad, secured a 1-0 victory over South Korea in Kashima with his 72nd-minute winner.
It was their first-ever win in Olympic football, having managed just one draw in each of the 2008 and 2012 tournaments.
An own goal saw Romania edge out Honduras 1-0 in the group’s other game.
“US Olympic men’s basketball team member Zach LaVine has cleared USA Basketball’s health and safety protocols and will join the USA team in Tokyo Thursday afternoon,” USA Basketball said in a statement Wednesday, without giving further details.
The US squad has already lost Washington guard Bradley Beal after he was placed into Covid-19 protocols, and center Kevin Love to a calf injury.
The Americans added Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee and San Antonio Spurs guard Keldon Johnson to replace Beal and Love.
The US squad, which opens its Olympic campaign on Sunday against France, is set to add three more players in coming days following the conclusion of the NBA Finals — Phoenix guard Devin Booker and Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton.
Olympics chief Thomas Bach revealed “doubts” and “sleepless nights” over the postponed Tokyo Games on Tuesday as the opening ceremony nears after a year’s delay and coronavirus chaos that has made them deeply unpopular with the Japanese public.
Bach, speaking at the International Olympic Committee session in Tokyo, said the unprecedented step of postponing the Games had proved more complicated than he thought.
The build-up to Friday’s opening ceremony has been exceptionally rocky, with Tokyo still under a state of emergency and public opinion consistently against the Games, which will be held largely without spectators.
“Over the past 15 months we had to take many decisions on very uncertain grounds. We had doubts every day. We deliberated and discussed. There were sleepless nights,” said Bach.
“This also weighed on us, it weighed on me. But in order to arrive at this day today we had to give confidence, had to show a way out of this crisis,” he added.
Bach has drawn scattered protests during his visit to Japan, where the latest poll in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper showed 55 percent of respondents opposed holding the Games this summer.
Four people have tested positive in the Olympic Village, heightening fears that the influx of thousands of athletes, officials and media will add to a spike in cases in Japan.
A teenage US gymnast staying outside the Village was also among the 71 Games-related cases reported so far.
Olympic and Japanese officials have staunchly defended the Games, which are being held in a strict biosecure “bubble” with daily testing. Eighty percent of athletes at the Games have been vaccinated.
“We can finally see at the end of the dark tunnel,” said Bach, adding: “Cancellation was never an option for us. The IOC never abandons the athletes… we did it for the athletes.”
Bach was speaking at an unusual IOC session, where mask-wearing delegates sat socially distanced at individual desks and the podium microphone was wiped after each speaker.
It reflected an Olympics which will mainly take place in empty stadiums to the sound of recorded crowd noises, starting with the opening ceremony in the 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium.
The ceremony will take place without the music of Keigo ‘Cornelius’ Oyamada, who quit on Monday after an outcry over past interviews where he described bullying disabled schoolmates.
“I have become painfully aware that accepting the offer of my musical participation in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics lacked consideration to a lot of people,” he said in a statement.
Major sponsor Toyota, the world’s biggest carmaker, also scrapped plans to run an Olympic-linked brand campaign in Japan, as a senior official said the Games lacked “understanding” from the public.