In our history, Nigeria has won a total of 3 Gold medals at the Olympics. The first two came at Atlanta ’96 – The aptly named “Dream Team” won the football gold, beating the mighty Brazil and Argentina along the way, while Chioma Ajunwa surprised the whole world by winning the women’s Long Jump with her first jump!
Nigeria’s third and last gold medal came at Sydney 2000 in the men’s 4x400m, though it would be another 8 years before the Nigeria team was formally awarded the gold medal by the IOC, after Team USA’s eventual disqualification, due to Antonio Pettigrew’s (RIP) admission of taking performance enhancing drugs between 1997 and 2003. As much as that may have lessened the impact of the Gold, the team that won it was undoubtedly the best 4x400m men’s team Nigeria has ever assembled – Clement Chukwu, Jude Monye, Enefiok Udo-Obong, and the late Sunday Bada, who dominated the quarter mile in Nigeria for the best part of the 90’s…
It is worth taking a look at the race which produced this Gold medal for Nigeria – here is a clip featuring the last 2 minutes of the race, starting with Bada on the 3rd leg who hands off to Enefiok on the anchor with Nigeria in fourth place behind the US, the Bahamas and Jamaica….
The order of our runners was very significant – over the 10 years previous to Sydney, Sunday Bada had more or less been Nigeria’s most consistent and more decorated 400m runner, winning many accolades on the global stage. Enefiok was the only runner in the starting quartet who was based and trained in Nigeria. It was considered a risk of monumental proportions that Nigeria’s 4x400m coach, Innocent Egbunike (himself Nigeria’s greatest 400m runner from the 80’s and still the national record holder at the distance), chose to put Enefiok, instead of Sunday Bada on the anchor leg – at the Nigerian trials that year, Enefiok had not even qualified for the individual 400m event!
No one was ever going to catch Michael Johnson on that last leg, but the commentators do not even mention Nigeria in the whole race – not until the last 200m. No one gave Nigeria a chance to even medal, but Enefiok produce the run of his life to finish ahead of Danny McFarlane and Chris Brown, both of whom are household names and celebrities in Jamaica and the Bahamas respectively! Not so for Enefiok – admittedly, shooting this the pilot phase of this documentary during Eko 2012 afforded me the opportunity to meet this great Olympian and get to know who he was – I never did before. He followed up his great run at Sydney, with a bronze medal at Athens in the 4x400m as well, but with a completely new set of teammates, making him the only man in Nigeria’s history to ever win 2 Olympic medals. Sadly, he is largely unheralded and unknown in his own country, and I think it is a travesty that one of the greatest Olympic medallists ever to come out of Nigeria is barely known, and certainly not by anyone who was not watching the Olympics back in 2000 and 2004!
Hope you enjoy the clip! Enefiok tells me that he only received his Gold medal from the IOC a few weeks ago – http://news2.onlinenigeria.com/sports/188548-nigeria-awarded-4x400m-relay-gold-medal-after-us-disqualified.html – let’s celebrate Nigeria’s last Gold medal at the Olympics, like what it is – our last Gold medal at the Olympics!