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One Year To Another Olympics Nigeria’s 2016 Rio Paralympic Medalists Still In Doldrums

–By Saidu Abubakar, With Agency Reports

Nigeria competed at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 7 September to 18 September, with a powerful delegation mostly composed of 14 powerlifters. Ahead of the Rio Games, the National Sports Commission promised Paralympic medals to erase the country’s Olympic shame.

The athletes broke world records at the Games winning eight gold medals, more than any other African country. Unfortunately, little or nothing has been done to appreciate the excellent performances of the physically impaired athletes.

During the Rio Olympic Games which traditionally precede the Paralympic Games, Team Nigeria received a lot of publicity from both local and international media and ended up winning only one bronze medal. In contrast, Nigeria’s Paralympic team winning eight gold medals has been largely overlooked. It is expected that the remarkable performance of these athletes should spur laudable comments from different quarters, most especially the federal government.

The physically impaired individuals should have been appreciated for their world record-breaking performances. This would have motivated the team to exhibit more brilliant performances at future Paralympic Games (next year).

(Paralympic) Team Nigeria won twelve medals; eight gold, two silver and two bronze medals. That placed Nigeria on the eleventh position on the Paralympic Games medals table.

Going into the Rio Games, Nigerian officials had promised that the delegation would return home from Rio with medals. Prior to the Games a former director of the (then National Sports Commission) was quoted as saying that he had hopes that the performance of the country’s Paralympians would, “erase the shame of the dismal showing at the Olympic Games.”

Sportspeople in Nigeria had difficulties in qualifying for Rio owing to a lack of funds. Most of the funding for Nigerian Paralympic participation came from the Nigerian government, with little funding coming from the private sector.

In many parts of Black Africa, people with disabilities that include insanity, and physical such as impairments and deformities often face cultural barriers to participation because of attitudes related to their disabilities. These include beliefs that they acquired their disabilities because their parents were witches or they were wizards. Their disability is often seen as a result of a personal failing on their part. As such, there is often tremendous cultural pressure for people with physical disabilities to remain hidden and out of the public glare. In many places, they are perceived to be monsters in need of healing. This is the context to which Nigerian Paralympians engage both society and sport internally, in their own country.

Following the success of the Nigerian team at the Paralympics in recent cycles, there were some changes in attitudes towards people with disabilities in the country.

Why Nigeria’s Paralympic athletes receive second class treatment:

Obviously, Nigeria’s Paralympic team athletes are not well appreciated despite their superlative performances. This mentality is pervasive in Nigeria as these people are being treated like they are not part of the society. This idea deepens the stereotype against them in our society. Consequently, it affects the productivity of these physically impaired individuals.

The athletes suffer neglect and receive relatively poor treatment from the federal government when representing Nigeria at international sporting events like it is evident on Rio Paralympic Games.

This is unlike the palatable treatments given to the able-bodied Olympic athletes. For instance, Nigeria’s Olympic football gold medallists are often celebrated for their performance at Atlanta 1996 Games but the Paralympic team did better by winning three gold, two silver and three bronze medals.

In addition, the Ministry of Sports pays less attention to the physically impaired athletes. The annual budget of the ministry focuses more on football while other sports receive less allocation. This, equally, is evident in the 2016 annual budget where N1,289,686,404 is allocated to the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), while other sports receive a lesser allocation.

Therefore, Paralympic athletes are not well catered for and not well recognized. This is a major issue that needs to be addressed because the Paralympic athletes are making the country proud.

Team Nigeria’s Eight Gold Medallists:

Ezuruike Roland:
He won the first gold medal for Nigeria at the ongoing Rio Paralympic Games. He took the gold medal in the men’s 54kg Powerlifting event. He won his first gold medal for Nigeria at the 2015 African games.

Kehinde Paul:
He broke a world record with a 220kg lift in the men’s 65kg Powerlifting event. He won the second gold for the Nigeria at ongoing Rio Paralympic games. Kehinde won a gold medal at the men’s 72kg powerlifting event of the 2014 Commonwealth games.

Ejike Lucy:
The team Nigeria’s captain set a Paralympic and World record by winning the women’s 61kg powerlifting event with 138kg lift. Her spectacular performance gave team Nigeria another gold medal at the ongoing Paralympic games.

Onye Lauritta:
She won the Nigerian seventh medal at the ongoing Paralympic games. She pulled a brilliant performance at the Women’s shot put F40 Athletic event when she her first throw of 7.83m breaking the world record of 7.72m. Onye’s final throw of 8.40m earned her the gold medal.

Nwosu Ndidi:
She won the fifth gold for Nigeria at the women’s 73kg Powerlifting event. She lifted 140kg to equate the Paralympics records. Despite her poor start at the event, she was able to make things by the end of the game, which earned her a gold medal.

Omolayo Bose:

She was able to set a new record for herself at the women’s 79kg Powerlifting event of the ongoing Paralympic Games. She won the sixth gold medal as lifted 138kg, outsmarting her China’s counterpart, Lili Hu, that lifted 135kg.

Ugwunwa Flora:
She won the seventh gold medal for Nigeria at the Women’s Javelin throw F53/54 athletics event. She recorded a throw of 20.25m to win another gold medal for the country. The 32-year-old Javelin thrower dominated the whole scene by beating the world record of 18.86m by 2m.

Orji Josephine:
She won the eight gold medal for Nigeria at the Women’s 86kg Powerlifting event. She gave Nigeria the eleventh medal at the Paralympics. She lifted 147kg to win her gold, making her best in the event.