Sports Minister, Sunday Dare has finally spoken on Team Nigeria’s outing at the just ended Tokyo 2020 Olympics which saw the country placed 74 out of 205 countries that participated and eight out of 52 African countries that were in Tokyo.
Team Nigeria won two medals, one silver medal from Blessing Oborodudu in Wrestling, and a bronze medal from Ese Brume in Long Jump. The Minister said that Nigerians should be proud of Team Nigeria and the effort they made given the impressive performance of our team and the good spirit with which they performed.
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In a lengthy statement personally signed by the Minister, he said that Nigeria succeeded with two (2) medals – a silver in wrestling won by Blessing Oborodudu and a bronze in long jump won by Ese Brume.
“Their performances were inspiring for they affirmed we can and should compete at the highest levels across the full range of sports events. Yes, we had wished and worked for more medals. But we must also put things in perspective. The medal outcome at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics stands as Nigeria’s best result in the last 13 years. Moreover, the athletes of Team Nigeria did their nation proud. Many of them reached the finals of their respective sports and, competing with all they had, were in contention for medals until the final moment. Anyone who saw their efforts would have nothing but the utmost respect for them, their coaches, and all the technical staff that made Tokyo possible”.
“Team Nigeria placed 74th position on the final Olympic medal table among 205 participating countries, despite our small contingent to the games. We were 8th among 52 African countries that participated. Team Nigeria excelled in many areas that engender hope for greater success in the future.
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Nigeria had five Olympic finalists in 100 meters Hurdles Women, Short Put, Long jump, Wrestling, and 100 meters men. Team Nigeria broke the 13-year-old jinx of no medal in Long jump and 25 years of no finalist in the men’s 100 meters and secured a medal in wrestling for the very first time. Overall, our performance was good, and more importantly, it is headed in the right direction”, the Minister noted.
On the sour news of disqualification of 10 Nigerian athletes, the Minister described it as painful and apologized to the athletes and Nigerians.
“While the general trends and overall performance were positive, I must mention two unfortunate incidents that occurred. First is the mishap resulting in 10 Team Nigeria athletes being ruled ineligible to compete for missing their mandatory Out of Competition Test, OTC. When notice of this ruling got to me, I immediately mobilized my team and the AFN leadership to see how the situation could be salvaged. We mounted a vigorous appeal process with the Athletics Integrity Unit, AIU, and had the team members complete the tests. However, timing became a critical issue. Despite our energetic appeal, the deciding committee made its announcement which gave no latitude to our team members for what was only an inadvertent lapse.
The adverse decision was painful to accept. We had prepared carefully and eagerly for the Olympics with the expectation that each person, federation, coach, and athlete would also complete the necessary preparations required of them.
As Minister, I ensured that all necessary approvals were done so that all requisite tests and exams could be timely completed. For me, this unfortunate incident is most painful because these athletes had prepared long and hard and also in view of the challenging circumstances due to COVID-19.
As the Minister, I must bear some institutional responsibility for this lapse. I also had to depend and expect that each person in the long and often technical chain will perform their role expeditiously and with precision. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, someone failed in their responsibility and as Minister, I bear the responsibility and brunt of the criticism. But that is not enough. I must move to ensure that Nigeria never experiences another such moment. I have ordered a full investigation that will not only uncover what happened but will also, recommend a process where such lapses can never occur in the future and initiate leveraging compliance monitoring technology to guardrail this.
I have personally apologized to the affected athletes. Here and now, I personally apologize to all Nigerians for this ineligibility episode. The AFN has also taken responsibility and apologized to the athletes and to Nigerians”.
The Minister also spoke on Blessing Okagbare, one of Team Nigeria’s medal hopefuls who could not partake in the Games because of drug issues, and empathized with her. “Nigeria will monitor closely developments around her temporary suspension and appeal”
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