Whoop!!! Team Nigeria Paralympians triumph!
There’s a saying that what a man can do, a woman can do better but in this case, its what the able bodies can do, the disabled can even do it better!
Watching the Paralympics could be emotional for some people but these special athletes displayed doggedness and ‘never-say-never’ spirit and that their disabilities isn’t an excuse not to excel in whatever they do.
Even as other countries were vying for spots on the medal table and breaking records. The Nigerian athletes in the Track and Field weren’t left out. Here’s a run through of the Nigerian athletes that participated.
African Record holder in the Women’s 100m – T54, Hannah Babalola was the first Nigerian tracklete to perform on Day 1 as she finished 4th in her discipline to secure a place in the final as one of the fastest loser.
In the Women’s 100m-T11, Lovina Onyegbule helped by her guide, Chidozie Kalu finished 4th in the Round 1 with a time of 12.70s.
Meanwhile in the Women’s Shot Put- F56/57 final, Eucharia Iyiazi finished just outside the medal zone in 4th place with a Season’s Best of 9.31m. Mexico’s Angeles Ortiz Hernandez won the GOLD with a distance of 10.94m with Algeria’s duo of Nassima Saifi and Nadia Medjmedj clinching Silver and Bronze medals respectively.
On Day 2, Babalola who made her debut appearance at this year’s Paralympics finished 7th in the Women’s 100m – T54 final. She was the only Nigerian athlete that competed on Day 2.
No Nigerian athlete competed in Track and Field on Day 3 but Day 4 was a day not-to-be forgotten as Laurrita Onye smashed the World Record twice to win Nigeria’s first medal in Athletics. Lauritta was no match for her competitors as her first throw of 7.83m in the Women’s F40 Shot Put was enough to win the title but she went further in her fourth attempt to throw a mind blowing distance of 8.40m breaking the World Record she set in her first throw.
Lauritta display of Celebration went viral on social media as the Paralympian did not hide her excitement. Another person who was excited over her victory was 5-time Olympian, Mary Onyali who was proud of Laurrita for winning the title wearing her Yali-Yali outfit.
Day 5 wasn’t rosy for the Nigerian athletes as Lovina Onyegbule who finished 4th in the Women’s 100m -T11 Round 1 despite winning her 200m- T11 with her guide, Chidozie Kalu, they were later notified that she was disqualified for lane infringement and sadly didn’t progress to the semifinal.
Day 6 was brighter for the Nigerian Track and Field team as Flora Ugwunwa won a Gold medal in the Women’s F54 Javelin. What was significant about her win was the fact that she did it in a Record-breaking style. She threw a distance of 20.25m to erase the World Record of 18.86m set by Tunisian Hania Aidi and the Paralympics Record of 17.89m by Liwan Yang.
No Nigerian Track and Field participated on Day 7 but on Day 8 two Nigerian athletes were expected to compete but only Eucharia Iyiazi who despite finishing 4th in the Women’s Shot Put-F56/57 on Day 1 gathered momentum as she moved a step higher this time to win a Bronze medal in the Women’s F57 Discus final. The four-time Paralympian threw two Season’s Best of 22.07m and 27.54m which was good enough for a medal contention. It’s worthy to note that Eucharia who is a bundle of talent has not returned from a Paralympics Game without a medal since she made her debut in 2004 Athens Games.
Onye was the other athlete expected to compete on Day 8 in the Women’s F40Discus but for one reason or the other she Did Not Start (DNS).
Union Bank ambassador, Hannah Babalola took to the track one more time on Day 10 as she finished 7th once again but this time in the Women’s 800m -T54 with a time of 1:56.17s which was not good enough to qualify her for the semis.
Gold medalist in the Women’s Javelin, Flora Ugwunwa couldn’t replicate that feat again as she finished 6th in the Women’s Discus -F55/54 with a throw of 19.03m.
Despite the low performance of the Nigerian athletes on the last day of the 2016 Rio Paralympics, it was however a wonderful outing and more encouraging than their able bodied compatriots who couldn’t bring back a single medal in Track and Field with the best been Ese Brume who finished 5th in the Women’s Long Jump final.
The first badge of athletes to the Rio Paralympics Games returned to the country on Sunday. They were received by Senior staffs of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Minister, members of the supporters club, well wishers and family members.
At a brief reception held at the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja, the Acting Permanent Secretary and Director Enterprises Mr. Luka Jonathan Mangset thanked the athletes for representing and making Nigeria proud at the Paralympics.
Speaking on behalf of the Minister, Barrister Solomon Dalung, the acting Permanent Secretary promised that a bigger reception will be held for the team when all other members of Team Nigeria to the games return.
“On behalf of Mr President, Vice President and the Honorable Minister of Youth and Sports, the Permanent Secretary and all good people of Nigeria, I welcome you back to Nigeria. We are celebrating you now because you have done this country proud. History was made with your glorious and victorious outing to the Rio 2016 Paralympics.”
“We appreciate your individual and collective efforts which placed Nigeria on a very prominent position on the medals table.”
“I am happy that Nigeria topped all the African nations in this outing. I want to congratulate you and pray that when the others come, we will give you a more befitting welcome” said Mr Luka.
Team Nigeria to the 2016 Paralympic games won a total of 8 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals to place 16th
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