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Nigeria at Tokyo 2020 Olympics: The shift from competitors to Olympic medal contenders

Admin 21-Jul-2021 Sports

Tokyo 2020 could herald the start of a new reign for Africans across multiple sports outside their usual medal-winning events like athletics, and football and swimming.

Nigeria recently became the first African nation to beat 15-time Olympic basketball champions USA. Sprint queen Blessing Okagbare is ready to step up at the Tokyo Olympics. 

Here are the Nigeria teams and athletes most likely to become Olympics and continental stars:

 Nigeria basketball

Two major wins in three days in pre-Olympic warmups has made the African champions Nigeria among the favourites for a medal in their third Games.

The D’Tigers, loaded with their American-born players featuring in the NBA, shocked the U.S. with a historic 90-87 victory in Las Vegas before beating world number four Argentina, 94-71.

The Americans have bagged basketball medals in all 18 of their Olympic appearances since the sport made its debut in Berlin 1936.

The recent results are a huge shift for the team that has never moved past their group phase.

Nigeria lost by a record score of 156-73 to the eventual winners, the U.S. at their debut Olympics at London 2012.

At the same Games, Nigeria managed one win against Tunisia, while their only victory at Rio 2016, was against Croatia.

There’s renewed confidence in the team coached by Mike Brown who is part of the coaching staff at the Golden State Warriors, that they could emulate the success of their football team at Atlanta 1996.

Nigeria and Cameroon (Sydney 2000) are the only two African teams to have won Olympic gold in the football tournament.

Brown told Olympics.com of his plan “to go there to try and win.”

“We are not going there just for the experience; the experience is going to be nice. But we want to go win. We have the mindset that we are going to Tokyo to win,” Brown said.

“We are looking forward to showing not just the people of Nigeria but people on the continent, African people around the world that there is a lot of Nigerian talent out there.”

Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Josh Okogie who was part of the Nigerian team that beat the U.S. says a medal in Tokyo would be a huge achievement.

“A medal? It would mean the world to me. Our whole focus is just on trying to win this medal. We know the potential we have.”

Nigeria is drawn in Group B alongside Australia Italy and Germany.

Nigeria’s women’s team will also feature in Tokyo and are equally thrilling to watch.

It’s a star-studded team, boasting foreign-based players, returning to the Olympics after their debut in Athens.

Nigerian wrestlers and table tennis players 

Staying with Africa’s most populous nation, Nigerians’ interest will also be on their wrestling and table tennis stars.

After their Rio 2016 experience, the wrestling pair of Blessing Oborududu and Odunayo Adekuoroye are hoping their Olympic dreams can come true.

The Commonwealth Games champions are unrivalled in Africa and believe that this is their best chance to grapple for Olympic medals.

Nigerian star Blessing Oborududu embarks on mission possible

After Commonwealth gold and 10 African titles, the 30-year-old wants to leave a mark at Tokyo 2020.

Adekuoroye, who reached the quarter-finals in Rio, told Olympics.com that she is “one of the top competitors to watch out for.”

“I find myself often thinking about how the gold medal will be represented to me… my dream is finally coming true.

“I can’t wait to experience that moment and make history as the first African woman to win Olympic gold in wrestling.”

And over at the Tokyo Metropolitan venue, Africa’s number one table tennis star Quadri Aruna who upset the form book by reaching the quarterfinals in Brazil is looking to “pull a surprise in Tokyo”.

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