How Lagos Athletes Propelled Team Nigeria to Successful Outing 

Nigeria’s Under-19 cricket team, the Junior Yellow Green, celebrating their victory in South African…recently

All Africa Games

When the story of Team Nigeria’s second position outing at the recently concluded Rabat 2019 All Africa Games in Morocco is being told, the place of athletes from Lagos State and the contributions they made in the success story would not be easily forgotten.

Lagos State has always been the ‘Centre of Excellence’ in Nigerian sports because the state has been known for its sports development programmes , a situation that has made the state as the grooming ground for athletes for national and international competitions.

Right from the government of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu down to the present administration of Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the development of sports and the welfare of athletes have always been in the hearts of the state governors who usually give all necessary support to the administrators saddled with the responsibility of managing sports in the state.

There is no doubt that the gains of International Badminton Classics, the monthly Boxing Hall of Fame Show, the ITTF Nigeria Open Challenge Plus and numerous developmental school sports programmes of the Lagos State Sports Commission are adding values not only in sports in the state but Nigeria as a whole.

This was evident in what happened at the Rabat Games last month with the contributions some of the athletes from Lagos State made to the total number of medals hauled by Team Nigeria to finish second at the continental championship.

Anuoluwapo Opeyori and Godwin Olofia’s inspired Nigerian badminton team won a team gold medal in Morocco, the first to be won by Nigeria when the Games started. Anuoluwapo overall won 2 gold and 1 silver medal, while another Lagos athlete, Godwin Olofia won 1 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze to the kitty of Team Nigeria. In the men’s doubles, the duo of Anuoluwapo and Godwin won silver medal, while in the women’s singles Lagos’ Dorcas Adesokan and Sofiat Obanishola won silver and bronze medals respectively. Dorcas Adesokan paired Deborah Ukeh to settle for silver medal in the women’s doubles event.

Anuoluwapo is Nigeria’s and Africa’s number one in badminton, while Godwin is rated number three in Nigeria. The pair of Anuoluwapo and Godwin are Africa’s number one in the men’s doubles.

Two Team Lagos boxers, Afeez Osoba (male) and Ayisat Oriyomi (female) representing Nigeria at 2019 All Africa Games won 1 silver and 1 bronze medal in the 69kg and 51kg categories respectively.

Afeez Osoba was a gold medallist in 69kg event in the last Abuja 2018 National Sports Festival. He is currently in the second position in African boxing. Ayisat Oriyomi, on the other hand, is a gold medallist at the Abuja 2018 National Festival, while she is in the third position on the continent. The record shows that Oriyomi was two times Governor’s Belt winner in 2013 and 2018. Governor’s Belt is an annual boxing championship usually held every Boxing Day to determine Lagos boxing champions in both the female and male categories every year. Oriyomi also won gold medal at the Eko 2012 National Sports Festival.

In weightlifting, Adijat  Adenike Olarinoye, a Lagos athlete, won 2 gold and 1 silver medals in the 55kg (Clean and Jack respectively). She broke the All Africa Games record. Olarinoye has been an outstanding lifter, she won 3 silver medals at the year 2018 National Sports Festival (NSF)  held in Abuja (snatch, clean and Jack and as well as Total in 55kg).

The same success story was recorded in table tennis where unfavoured Lagos’ Olajide Omotayo, who was representing Team Nigeria, conquered three of the best players in Africa in the table tennis event to be crowned the champion.

From the quarterfinal stage, Omotayo worked his way to the final beating two former champions – Egypt’s Ahmed Saleh and Nigeria’s Segun Toriola – in the quarterfinal and semifinal stages.

The final produced the best of Africa with Aruna Quadri going up against Omotayo and the fans were treated to an exciting match.

Omotayo threw caution to the wind and raced to the lead with a 3-0 (13-11, 11-9, 16-14) but experienced Quadri cut the lead to 3-2 with 8-11, 13-15 wins in the fourth and fifth games.

The sixth match was a display of energy and skills and it was the younger Omotayo that scaled through with 12-10 win to claim the second gold medals for Nigeria in the table tennis event of the multi-sports fiesta.

Executive Chairman of Lagos State Sports Commission, Dr. Kweku Tandoh, who alongside some top management staff of the commission including the Director General Oluwatoyin Gafar, were in Rabat to watch proceedings of the All Africa Games. He commended Anuoluwapo and Omotayo for their ‘golden’ performance. He said they are not only good ambassadors of Nigeria but they also made Lagos State proud.

“Jide Omotayo, a player groomed and developed through the Lagos State sports system, has shown that with determination, commitment and discipline, you can get to the top. We are proud of him and wish him the very best,” Tandoh said.

“Anu has continued to blossom in his badminton career. A product of Lagos State and one of the success stories of the annual Lagos International Badminton Classics, Anu’s focus, humility and discipline has seen him rise to the top of African Badminton. For him, I am sure that this is just a stepping stone to greater success in his career,” the Executive Chairman said.

Lagos State Sports Commission, known for its proactive approach to the issue of development of athletes through the approval of the governor, used the long holiday of the students in the state to organise a Lagos Sports Summer Camp. The idea behind the camp, according to Gafar was to introduce the chosen sports (Athletics, Table-tennis, Basketball, Taekwondo, Judo, Swimming, Squash and Volleyball) to students who have shown interest, for them to make use of the opportunity to become future stars not only for Lagos but also for Nigeria.

“After the camping exercise, some identified talents will be selected for further coaching and mentoring,” Gafar said.

Like the popular saying that ‘the Future is Now’, Lagos recognises that to better the future, all hands must be on deck to prepare for the future now.