Defection scare, late gold rush for Nigeria as C'Games ends

Despite a defection scare, Team Nigeria embarked on a late gold rush on the Gold Coast but they fell short of their haul in the last two editions in Delhi and Glasgow, writes ’TANA AIYEJINA

The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games comes to an end today at the Carrara Stadium in Queensland, Australia after 12 days of competition amongst 71 countries.

On Saturday, Nigeria concluded events with one gold, three silver and one bronze but they dropped from the eighth position they held on Friday to ninth.

Overall Team Nigeria have nine gold, eight silver and six bronze medals, making them the second highest-ranked African team in the table behind fifth-place South Africa, who have 13 gold, 11 silver and 13 bronze. The next African country in the table is Kenya, who occupy the 13th position with four gold, seven silver and six

Hosts Australia emerged winners with 75 gold, 55 silver and 57 bronze with England (42 gold, 40 silver and 41 bronze) and India (25 gold, 16 silver and 18 bronze) coming second and third respectively.

Team Nigeria won their first medal at the Games on Monday courtesy of the table tennis men’s team, who lost to India 3-0 in the final.

However, it was Paralympics record-holder Roland Ezuruike who won the country’s first gold a day later when he lifted 224.3kg in the para-powerlifting lightweight category with compatriot Paul Kehinde settling for silver with a 219.9kg lift.

Nigeria in late gold rush

On Thursday, Nigeria were placed 11th with four gold, five silver and four bronze but a late rush for medals — which began on Friday — going into the final day, saw the Nigerians amassing eight gold, five silver and five bronze medals to place eighth on the medals table.

The wrestling team, which had threatened to boycott the Games over unpaid allowances, began the chase for medals.

Four-time African champion Odunayo Adekuoroye successfully defended her 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medal when she defeated India’s Pooja Dhanda 7-5 in the women’s 57kg wrestling freestyle event.

Adekuoroye thus becomes the first Nigerian female wrestler to win a gold medal consecutively at the Commonwealth Games.

Also, 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Blessing Oborududu claimed gold in her event after coming from behind to defeat Canada’s Danielle Lappage in the women’s 68kg wrestling freestyle event on points (4-3).

In the freestyle male, Captain Amas Daniel won the bronze medal match against Canada’s Vincent De Marinis to cart home his second bronze medal at a Commonwealth Games.

Para-athlete Suwaibidu Galadima, on Friday, won gold in the men’s T47 100m event at the Carrara Stadium in 11.04secs.

Hurdler Oluwatobiloba Amusan won gold in the women’s 100m hurdles to increase the number of Nigeria’s medals to eight gold, five silver and five bronze.

The 20-year-old won in 12.68secs, making her the first Nigerian to win the event at the Games. Prior to Amusan’s feat, the athletics team had put up a disappointing show, with only Chukwuebuka Enekwechi winning silver in the men’s  shot put event.

Aminat Adeniyi won a gold in the women’s wrestling on day 10 of the event while the three silver medals were won by Faith Obazuaye in women’s TT6-10 singles (table tennis), Melvin Bibo (men’s wrestling), and the women’s 4X400m relay, while the women’s 4X100m relay quartet won bronze, which placed Nigeria on nine gold, eight silver and six bronze.

But the effort fell short of Nigeria’s best performance at the Games, which is 11 gold, 13 silver and 13 bronze at the Victoria Games in 1994.

The Nigerian contingent also failed to surpass the performances of the country at the last two editions of the Games: 11 gold, eight silver and 14 bronze achieved at Delhi 2010 and 11 gold, 11 silver and 14 bronze at Glasgow 2014.

Para-powerlifters shine again

As usual, Nigerian para-powerlifters were the most outstanding, leading the country’s medal chase. Para-powerlifter Esther Oyema broke her own world record to secure a third consecutive Commonwealth title. In fact, all the six athletes in the category won medals — four gold and two silver medals.

Oyema arrived at the Gold Coast boasting a world record of 126kg she set in the lightweight category at Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. But she lifted 131kg to give her a total of 141.6 points to claim gold  and again set a new world record.

Three-time Paralympic Games gold medallist (2004, 2008, 2016) Lucy Ejike snatched 133kg to tally 134.1 points to claim the silver.

Rio 2016 Paralmypic Games gold medallist Ndidi Nwosu also won gold in the women’s heavyweight event with 110.4 points with clean lifts of 110kg and 120kg.

Paper tigers

A sour point for Nigeria at the Games was the men’s basketball event, where D’Tigers put up a disappointing performance, losing all their four games at the competition.  They lost 110-65 to New Zealand in their opener, were beaten 82-67 by Canada in their second match, before they suffered another humiliating defeat to hosts Australia 97-55 in their final group. They then lost their semi-final qualifier 66-61 to Scotland.

Okagbare factor

Blessing Okagbare won the 100m and 200m at Glasgow 2014, setting the women’s 100m Commonwealth Games record of 10.85secs. She also became the fourth woman to win the 100m and 200m double at the Games.

But with the fans hoping to watch her defend her titles on the Gold Coast, Okagbare opted to compete in the 4x100m relays, a move athletics buffs felt affected Nigeria’s medal chances at the Games.

Defection scare

However, the disappearance of 13 African athletes at the Games reportedly sparked anxiety in Team Nigeria’s camp. Eight Cameroon athletes – five boxers and three weightlifters – first disappeared from the Games Village without traces on Wednesday and a further five also vanished from camp thereafter.

Gold Coast organisers confirmed reports that athletes from Rwanda and Uganda were thought to have gone missing, while they were also looking to verify the whereabouts of two squash players from Sierra Leone.

According to ABC Local, a Gold Coast migration agent Ian Natherson says more than 40 Commonwealth Games athletes including Nigerians, Mauritians and Ghanaians have contacted his firm to inquire about how they can stay in Australia, which reportedly gave Nigerian officials cause for concern.

Dalung reportedly warned the officials they would be dealt with if athletes in their care at the Games go missing.

The permanent secretary of the ministry Olusade Adesola, who visited the athletes in the Games Village on Thursday, advised them not to emulate their Cameroonian counterparts.

“Defection, no doubt, brings embarrassment to any government. But the truth is that most of these athletes don’t know that those countries they are running to are no El Dorado,” Adesola said in a statement by Team Nigeria Press Attaché, Tony Ubani.

“There is no place like your country and that which you are running away from will confront you many times there and you’ll live miserably and hide perpetually. Before you know it, you’ll be full of regrets.”

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