For the next two weeks, beginning from today, Nigerian sports lovers will be in for some great moments as the country’s athletes vie for honors once again.
It is the XXII Games, which features the best young men and women from the British Commonwealth in friendly wars on the pitch and tracks of Birmingham, England.
Tagged Birmingham 2022, Nigerians are particularly hopeful of a glorious outing following the country’s record-breaking feats at the just-concluded Oregon 2022 World Athletics Championships.
At the event in the United States, Nigeria not only won a gold medal and one silver, the country’s golden girl, Oluwatobilola Amusan, blew the field away on her way to creating a world record of 12.12 seconds in the women’s 100 metres hurdles.
Together with Ese Brume, who won silver medal in the women’s long jump in Oregon, Amusan and compatriots, are going to Birmingham sure of making their countrymen and women happy.
Apart from the aforementioned duo, Nigeria’s men and women sprinters, including Favour Ofili, Favour Ashe, Godson Brume, Rosemary Chukwuma, Grace Nwokocha, Alaba Akintola, Udodi Onwuzurike, Samson Nathaniel and Ezekiel Nathaniel, as well as the men and women’s relay teams are favoured to excel in England.
And then there are the wrestlers, who showed at the Japan 2020 Olympic Games that Nigeria has one of the best matsmen and women in the world.
In all, Nigeria will feature 93 athletes, who will vie for honours in athletics, athletics, boxing, judo, para powerlifting, table tennis, weightlifting and wrestling.
This year’s competition, which ends on August 8, is featuring over 5,000 athletes from 72 different countries. They will compete for 283 medals in aquatics, athletics, badminton, basketball, beach volleyball, boxing, cricket t20, cycling, gymnastics, hockey, judo, lawn bowls, netball, para powerlifting, rugby sevens, squash, table tennis, triathlon, weightlifting, and wrestling.
Before the contingent departed for Birmingham during the week, Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, charged the athletes to be focused, disciplined and conscious of the fact that they are carrying the aspirations and hopes of over 200 million Nigerians.
He expressed optimism that Team Nigeria would be very competitive at the Games, assuring Nigerians that the athletes are fit and ready for the competition.
“I want to urge you to be disciplined. If you have any complaints, the Ministry has outlined how they can be resolved. There are just three layers of conflict resolution now and by the time you are getting to that third layer, then you are getting to me,” he said, adding that there is a zero tolerance policy against doping and the need for the athletes to be clean and fair.
“Only last week, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) commended us for our zero tolerance stance against doping and the seriousness we have attached to our anti-doping campaign. Our increased numbers of testing and drive to do things right are some of the things you should reflect at this Games.
“So, as you leave for the Commonwealth Games, remember to be good ambassadors of our dear country and strive to do us proud,” he concluded.
Also speaking on Team Nigeria at a farewell dinner organised for the athletes by the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, expressed delight at the opportunity to host Team Nigeria to a farewell reception, while extending special appreciation to the sports minister and the President of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), Habu Gumel for making it happen.
According to her, “I know the Team Nigeria athletes will do this nation proud. I know they have worked extremely hard, put in so many hours of training and competed to represent Nigeria.
“Do not forget those sacrifices you have made, and use that memory, that muscle memory, that energy to pull through your most challenging moments. In the end, it is only you who can give your best.”
While describing Birmingham, the venue of the Commonwealth Games, as a modern and bustling metropolis and one of the most diverse cities, as well as being a truly multicultural destination, Laing revealed that it has thousands of members of the Nigerian Diaspora living there.
In his remark, Gumel charged the athletes to be good ambassadors, while he thanked Laing for hosting the team and expressed confidence in the ability of Birmingham to host the rest of the Commonwealth successfully.
He added that he is full of positive expectations from Team Nigeria athletes heading for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, assuring that every logistics needed to ensure a hitch-free movement and participation of Team Nigeria athletes have been put in place.
“What we are expecting is to go to Birmingham and do our best to make Nigeria proud. We have named all the athletes in various sports that are going to Birmingham.
“We have all the list of the athletes we are taking to the Commonwealth Games and regarding their visa, everything has been duly sorted out,” he stated.
Birmingham 2022 Games is anticipated to have the most events for women and disabled athletes in the history of the Games and it will be the first Games to include Esports, albeit as a limited pilot with separate branding and medals.
Nigeria finished ninth at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, winning nine gold, nine silver and six bronze medals, while her best performance ever was in Victoria, Canada in 1994, where she won 11 gold, 13 silver, and 13 bronze medals to placed fourth.