The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) has listed two Nigerian umpires for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic games in Brazil.
Nigeria’s John Peters and Cecilia Arinye will join 47 other umpires listed by the world table tennis ruling body for the tournament.
Peters, who is among the longest serving umpires in Africa, will officiate at the Olympic Games while Arinye, who is the Director of Sports, University of Lagos will be in action at the Paralympic Games.
Aside Nigeria, Algeria and Egypt are the only countries in the continent that will have umpires at the games, as listed by ITTF.
Nigeria’s Yakubu Adesokan beat off a sustained challenge from Vietnam’s Van Cong Le in what was considered as an incredibly tense men’s -49kg, which saw the world record fall three times at the IPP Powerlifting World Championships in Dubai.
The gold medal looked to be Le’s after the 29 year-old broke Adesokan’s world record with a lift of 177kg in the second round, and improved it further still with a 180kg lift in the third round.
However, Adesokan showed true champion qualities with a final lift of 181kg to take back the world record and complete a unique Grand Slam of Paralympic, world and Commonwealth titles.
Russia’s London 2012 silver medalist Vladimir Balynetc (166kg) finished third, whilst the junior world record went to 15 year-old Iranian Mohsen Bakhtiar (131kg) who finished tenth overall.
The 2014 IPC Powerlifting World Championships, featuring over 330 athletes from nearly 60 countries, runs from 5-11 April and is the first opportunity for athletes to begin the qualification process for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.
President Goodluck Jonathan on Saturday rewarded members of the Nigerian team to the 2012 London Paralympic Games and the national under-20 women football team (the Falconets).
At a reception held for both teams at State House Banquet Hall in Abuja, Mr Jonathan announced the conferment of the Member of the Order of Niger (MON) on six Paralympics athletes who won gold medals at the Games where Nigeria placed 22nd overall among 164 participating countries, and finished third behind Tunisia and South Africa among African countries.
The team of 29 athletes and 19 officials had won six gold, five silver and two bronze medals at the Paralympic Games.
The six gold medallists, who are all powerlifters and will be decorated on Monday in Abuja, include Yakubu Adesokan, who set a new world record in the men’s -48 k; Grace Anozie, Ivory Nwokorie, Loveline Obiji, Joy Onaolapo and Esther Oyema.
Mr Jonathan also announced a cash reward of N5 million for each gold medallist, while the five silver medallists were rewarded with N3 million each.
The two bronze medallists in the Paralympic team were also rewarded with N2 million each, while the team officials were each rewarded with N2.5 million.
Other members of the Paralympic team who did not win any medal at the Games, which was held from 29 August to 9 September, were also rewarded with N500, 000 Naira each.
The president further announced a reward of N1 million each for the women football team while their officials are to receive N1.2 million each.
The Falconets had finished fourth at the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup finals held in Japan from Aug. 18 to Sept. 8 in Japan.
The president said no amount of money or award would be enough to reward the two groups of Nigerian sports figures and that the reception was a modest recognition of their achievements.
“This is a modest recognition, which is just a token in our appreciation of your efforts. It is not the value of the money, but the recognition of your achievement, which is much more than any reward,” he said.
He praised the athletes, saying they gave hope to the Nigerian youths and those that are physically challenged.
“You represented our country to the best of your abilities. You competed among the very best in the world and still kept your heads. You made us proud, and I commend your exceptional courage.
“The Paralympians have also demonstrated to their fellow countrymen and women that being physically challenged is no barrier.
“It is also a great achievement on the part of the Falconets to come fourth in the world. It is not easy. You all helped to put smiles on our faces, and helped to remind the world that Nigeria is still a force in sports,’’ he said.
Earlier in his remarks, the Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, had commended the president setting a pace in hosting the Paralympians and the Falconets.
He said it was the first time such an event was organised at that level to recognise athletes for performing outstandingly.
“I however want to call on the private sector to take a cue from the gesture of the President in honouring the Paralympians and the Falconets too,’’ he said.
The minister said the performance of both the Paralympians and Falconets comforted Nigerians following the poor outing of the athletes to the 2012 Olympics earlier.
He blamed the poor outing at the Olympics on high level of indiscipline and lack of commitment on the part of the athletes who represented the country.
Mr Abdullahi however pointed out that the greatest honour that could be bestowed on the Paralympic athletes was to give them early preparation for the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio, Brazil.
In the same vein, the Chairman of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, however cautioned Nigerians not to be too hard on the London 2012 Olympic athletes.
He blamed their poor outing on poor and late preparation and called on the relevant stakeholders to ensure early preparation for every global competition.
Mr Amaechi also seized the opportunity to call on the Presidency to take the menace of polio as a matter of national emergency.
He decried the recent increase in the number of polio cases recorded as at the last count, and said the NGF would support the federal government in all regards in addressing the problem.
While responding on behalf of the Falconets, the team captain Gloria Ofoegbu thanked the president and presented him with a team jersey signed by all players and officials.
Ms Onaolapo, a powerlifter and world record holder who responded on behalf of the Paralympic athletes, also thanked the federal government for the gesture.
She promised that the athletes would continue to make the president and the country proud through more brilliant performances in the future.
The reception was attended by Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim.
Governors Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna, Danbaba Suntai of Taraba, Idris Wada of Kogi, Theodore Orji of Abia, Martins Elechi of Ebonyi and Sullivan Chime of Enugu also attended the event.
Also in attendance were the Governors Isa Yuguda of Bauchi and Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, as well as the deputy governors of Bayelsa, Katsina, Jigawa, Gombe, Adamawa, Plateau and Kano States who represented their governors.
President Goodluck Jonathan has directed that the Paralympic team that won medals for Nigeria at the just concluded games in London be brought to Abuja and accorded a special reception on Saturday.
The Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, who disclosed this to state house correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting in Abuja, said that equally to be accorded a special reception are the members of the Falconets, who also did Nigeria proud at the female world cup competition in Japan.
“The president has already sent special commendation to the team and all Nigerians are very proud of their performance in London. It has indeed wiped away our tears from the performance of the able bodied Olympic team,” Mr Maku said.
The Minister said the performance of the Paralympic team shows that there is talent in everyone.
“The message the Paralympic team has shown Nigerians is that we need greater passion in the things we do. If I look at the faces of those athletes during the competition and you look at their total absorption and interest and passion and commitment to the national flag throughout the tournament, you could see that there is a big difference in terms of their desire and commitment to win.
“Let me also say that the performance of this team tells us that every citizen is important and that there could be greater talent in the physically challenged than those of us who will always think that we are physically abled,” he said.
The minister said he believes that as President Jonathan receives the team on Saturday “the signal will clearly go to all Nigerians that no matter your physical challenges you can give this country greater honour; greater contribution to its development than any other citizen.”
There were angry reactions on Tuesday following the low profile reception accorded the triumphant Paralympics team when they arrived the country after winning a total of six gold medals in the London Olympics event.
The athletes, who were transported home by their various federation buses, said they should be accorded same respect and recognition as their able bodied counterparts.
Nigeria finished 22nd position in the overall medal table with a total of 13 medals comprising six gold, five silver and two bronze medals.
Nigeria is already late in beginning its preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games to be hosted by Brazil, an official of the National Sports Commission (NSC) has said.
Patrick Ekeji, the NSC Director-General, said this at a reception hosted by Dr Dalhatu Tafida, the Nigerian High Commissioner to the UK, on Saturday in London.
The reception was in honour of the Nigerian Paralympians at the London 2012 Paralympic Games which ends on Sunday.
“We have already started out late in the preparations for the Rio 2016 Olympics,’’ Ekeji said
Ekeji however appealed to the federal government to use the negatives of the current situation to achieve the positive and turn around the sports sector for good.
“We should use the disappointment of the able-bodied athletes at the Olympic Games and the success of the physically-challenged athletes at the Paralympics to transform the sports sector.
“Yes, the able-bodied Olympians must have disappointed the nation, but the physically-challenged Paralympians have made us proud.
“But right now we need the political will to develop and transform sports. Winning medals these days at international meets has become more challenging with the emerging technological innovations,’’ he said.
Ekeji who expressed concern over the obsolete training facilities the physically-challenged athletes were saddled with called for a total overhaul of the current facilities
He commended the Nigerian Paralympians for doing the nation proud and for their “highest sense of dedication and patriotism.’’
Tafida in his remarks said the Paralympians’ performance was commendable and was worth emulating
“The uniqueness of the London Games lies in the fact that the Paralympians broke four world records when compared to the poor performance of our able-bodied athletes at the just-concluded Olympics,’’ the envoy said.
He noted that the Paralympians had always showed commitment and dedication and had never disappointed the nation at any of their competitions outside and within the shores of the country.
“This feat is not only worth of celebrating but also serves as a lesson for us to look beyond their disabilities,’’ the envoy added.
Ms Gloria Anozie, a gold medallist in the women’s +82.50 kg category of powerlifting suggested that government must show commitment in the development of the special sports.
“We have never disappointed Nigeria in any of our outings. It is time government stopped paying lip service to the welfare of those with disabilities and treat us as equals with our able-bodied counterparts,’’ she said.
Four of the Paralympians who broke world records in powerlifting are Esther Onyema, Joy Oyelapo, Yakubu Adesokan and Shade Ayo.
Team Nigeria has continued in making Nigerians proud at the on-going London 2012 Paralympic Games making the country take the lead ahead of other African countries on the medals table.And to make sure that title does not off; Powerlifters Folashade Oluwafemiayo and Victoria Nneji won silver and bronze medals respectively yesterday.
Oluwafemiayo also broke the world record twice before setting a new one at 148kg to knock off Chinese Taoying Fu’s 147kg effort in the women’s powerlifting -75kg class.
Oluwafemiayo and Fu lifted 146kg in their third attempts respectively but the Chinese was awarded the gold medal because she weighed 2kg less than the Nigerian. Fu weighed 72.53kg, while Oluwafemiayo weighed 74.17kg. Tzu-Hui Lin of Chinese Taipei won the bronze medal with her 137kg lift.
Their fourth attempts where Fu lifted 147kg and Oluwafemiayo 148kg were not to determine the winner but to have a new world record in the category.
Meanwhil, Nneji claimed her failure to win gold was due to a shoulder injury she sustained during camping for the Games in Korea after her poor start in the women’s powerlifting -67.5kg class.
She lifted 125kg to finish behind France’s Souhad Ghazouani (gold) and China’s Yujiao Tan (silver). Ghazouani had lifted 146kg in her first attempt but failed to complement in the subsequent attempts, while Nneji was only able to lift 125kg in her third attempt.