It is a sad day in the Nigerian camp for several reasons. In every room in the Olympic Village or the various hotel rooms where Team Nigeria officials are staying in the city of Tokyo, there is some lamentation.
To start with, finally, the hunt for medals has come to a terminus. Nigeria may be stuck with the only two medals, one Silver and a Bronze, that it secured before this day.
Secondly, the day ended with one of the great disappointments of Tokyo 2020 even beyond the Nigerian contingent. On one of the most painful days for the small contingent left here in Tokyo, the defeat of Odunayo Adekuoroye was the deepest cut in country’s quest for medals at the Games of the 32nd Olympiad.
If there were two athletes that Nigerians had unflinching confidence would come through and return to Nigeria with a medal in Tokyo, the least of which would be Silver, one of them would, undoubtedly, be Odunayo. The other athlete had already delivered but also ‘disappointed’ in the colouration of the medal the number one ranked long jumper in the world, won for all her effort – Bronze. Yes, Ese Brume, who had been on every lip as the potential winner on the night, could only deliver a Bronze.
That should probably have warned the Nigerian team about what could possibly also happen to Odunayo.
Thinking about it, the absence of cheering spectators would affect athletes differently. It could give confidence to those afraid of crowds, and could diminish the performance of those that require the roar of crowds to left their spirit and their game.
Otherwise, it is hard to understand how Odunayo, even with all the uncertainties in sport, could have lost a match she had already clearly won, at the last minute and in her very first fight.
She is that good – consistent, determined, focused and driven by the winning spirit, the sort that drove some of the greatest competitors in sport – Edwin Moses and Lee Evans in athletics, Mike Tyson in the early years of his boxing and their ilk.
These were athletes who competed as if their lives depended on it.
For several years up till the start of the Olympics, there was not a more hard working athlete than Odunayo.
She lacked nothing to stop her from becoming a champion. Primarily, she was not a government ‘pikin’. The bulk of her expenses and care came directly from the private purse of the General Overseer of a Christian Church in Nigeria who adopted her some years ago.
It is also likely she got substantial support from the Sports Ministry. Whatever the situation may have been, she was probably the most prepared athlete in the entire contingent. Nigerians wrote down a medal against her name in the series of predictions before the Games.
Her loss deflated what would have been additional celebrations in the Nigerian camp. Instead, the closing chapter is now been written in little tears and deep sadness.
Here in Tokyo, (and ‘The Eye’ has seen reports from Nigeria expressing the same situation) the hunt for medals has ended. So have the exaggerated celebrations. Everyone here has shifted their attention to the aftermath of the Olympics when the team returns to the country this weekend.
The last two events here are at best, ceremonial, because except a miracle happens, the hurriedly assembled relay quartet of a mixed grill of athletes specialising in different events but coming together to challenge for a podium place against the best oppositions in the world, cannot win anything.
The only male Nigerian athlete left in the Shot Put is not even known well enough by Nigerians for them to have any thoughts about how he would fare. His first round performance is encouraging. If he gets on the podium, it is even unlikely he will come back to Nigeria to celebrate the medal.
Like half of the Nigerian contingent to Tokyo, he is a member of the foreign legion of athletes, Nigerians born abroad and bred on the culture and in the fields of America.
There is an interesting development that will take place in the aftermath of the Olympics that is attracting ‘the Eye’ and would interest Nigerian stakeholders in sports development when it is unveiled.
It is coming from a most unusual quarter.
Honourable Abike Dabiri (remember her?) the TV personality-turned-political juggernaut, and current Minister? In charge of Diasporan Affairs, is cooking up a very interesting ‘soup’ with co-stakeholders in sports development from Jamaica. The Jamaicans are interested in bringing to Motherland, what they learned and adopted from the USA that transformed them into the Speed Country of the world.
Before all that, however, Nigeria’s last two events here have to be completed in the next few hours.
So, trust Nigerians, the final moments here are taken up by the raised voices of the contingent members left here, doing what they do most and best – pray!
‘The Eye’ can see the signs of serious ‘Prayers for a Miracle’ here in the final hours of Tokyo 2020. Amen.
It is getting ready, however, for divine favours when Team Nigeria arrives Nigeria and has to do a postmortem. No one is sure how Nigerians will see and take Tokyo 2020! Not even ‘the Eye’.