Team Nigeria Makes Clean Sweep of Para-weightlifting Gold Medals

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*Esther Oyema sets world record in women’s lightweight category

*Gold medalists want commensurate appreciation from President Buhari

Duro Ikhazuagbe

Roland Ezuruike on Tuesday sparked Team Nigeria’s gold rush at the ongoing XXI Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. By the time competition ended on Day Six of the Games, Team Nigeria moved up from just two silver to four gold and four silver medals and ninth on the overall medals standings.

Ezuruike lifted a total of 224.3kg in the Men’s Lightweight category of the para-weightlifting to dump his compatriot and former record holder, Paul Kehinde to play second fiddle.

The I, 2 finish for the Team Nigeria was glorious as it created the right spirit for others to similarly emulate him. England’s Jawad Ali took the bronze.

Esther Oyema and Ndidi Nwosu also won gold medals in their various categories. Abdulazeez Ibrahim won the fourth gold medal in the same para-weightlifting to shoot Nigeria to the 9th spot in the medals’ standing.

Esther Oyema snatched the gold after a horse-race with compatriot Lucy Ejike. Oyema lifted 131kg in the Women’s Lightweight category final to set a new world record.

Ejike settled for the silver while England was yet again condemned to the bronze.

Team Nigeria’s third gold medal of the Games also came from the para-weightlifting as Ndidi Nwosu defeated other contestants in the women’s heavyweight class to win.

Abdulazeez Ibrahim added Nigeria’s fourth gold medal to cap the brilliant performance of the country’s para athletes on the Day Six of competition at the Games in Gold Coast.

He lifted a total of 191.9kg to finish ahead a strong field of 10 contestants.

The silver medal went to Yee Khie Jong of Malaysia won lifted 188.7kg, while India’s Sachin Chandhary picked the bronze with a 181.0kg lift.

Team Nigeria moved to the ninth position of the Overall Medal’s Table with 4 Gold and 4 Silver to join South Africa (in the fifth position with 9 gold, 6 silver and 6 bronze medals as the top two African countries on the Top 10 Medals Table.

Meanwhile, the gold medalists want an audience with President Muhammadu Buhari after winning gold on Day 6 of the Commonwealth Games.

Oyema who set a new world record said that meeting President Buhari will be a dream come true for her.

“I feel so excited because it was like a film to me. I was anxious about winning gold at the Commonwealth Games because after the Paralympic Games in Rio, I went to rest. I had to start the process of cutting down on my body weight because I was already in the heavyweight class and I knew I needed a lot of hard work to shed about 10kg.

My coach Patience Igbiti encouraged me so I started training for it. If I didn’t work on my body weight, I wouldn’t have set a new world record today,” observed the gold medalist.

She stressed further that her sacrifice to work harder has propelled her to the top and would be very glad to meet President Buhari.

“Today I have made sacrifices to make my country proud. I have won Gold and set a world record. I will like to meet President Muhammadu Buhari and I want him to make us proud too,” Oyema concluded.

Oyema said that one of the greatest challenges of physically challenged athletes in Nigeria was lack of recognition despite setting world records.

Similarly, gold medalist in the men’s lightweight class, Rowland Obumneke Ezuruike also expressed happiness not only for winning the gold medal but for beating his friend and World record holder Paul Kehinde.

“It’s an honour for me to beat a world champion. He is one of the greatest in powerlifting. He beat me in the last Commonwealth Games and I defeated him in this year’s. I’m happy not just because of the gold medal but the person I beat to win,” he noted.

Ezurike expressed optimism that they will be received this time around following their success at the Games.

“What they expected from us, we have given it to them and I know that Mr President will do something for us. Sport is all about encouragement and motivation. They say that to whom much is expected, much should also be given. I think we have given them our best and we are expecting from them. I have finished my part and I want our dear President to invite us to Aso Villa for a reception and be encouraged financially. That is my dream,” he concluded.