Latifiat Tijani became the 1st Nigerian athlete in Tokyo to win GOLD in the Powerlifting event. Photo Credit: Hiroki Nishoka

At the moment, Team Nigeria’s contingent in Tokyo has won a total three medals: one GOLD, two Bronze medals so far at the ongoing 2020 Paralympic Games, and as expected all have come from the Powerlifting event, Nigeria’s strong suit over the years.

Latifat Tijani set the pace when she clinched GOLD in women’s -47kg, beating her closest challenger, China’s Zhe Cui to lift the biggest weight in the field with 107kg. For Tijani, it was her time to land the big prize, missing out on GOLD five years ago in Rio when she won Silver lifting 106kg.

Tijani made her intent known from the start, opting to start with 105kg, going on to lift it on her second attempt, and even had a go at the Paralympics Record, requesting for 117kg. Only Cui apart from Tijani, was able to lift anything 100kg. She was very dominant on the day, and at her best.

For Lucy Ejike, a fan favourite and Nigeria’s Flagbearer for two consecutive Paralympics, her Bronze medal in the women’s -61kg felt as though she let GOLD slip from her grasp. Ejike was on the cusp of history, and aiming to join Ajibola Adeoye as the only athletes to win four Paralympic GOLDs, but missed out on that.

Leading with 130kg going into the final round: Mexico’s Amalia Perez lifted 131kg on her last attempt, while Uzbekistan’s Ruza Kuzieva lifted 130kg, and they all went ahead of Ejike who needed to respond if she was to overhaul it back. Failing to lift 135kg pushed Ejike down to 3rd place, a finish that left her downcast. It was evident she wanted to win, and wasn’t happy with the colour of medal she got.

However Ejike will take solace knowing that she has now won the complete set across Six Paralympic Games with a plethora of medals to show for it: 3 GOLDs, two Silver and 1 Bronze medal spanning 21 years since her debut in 2000 at the Sydney games.

Meanwhile in women’s -67kg, Olaitan Ibrahim wasn’t going to miss out on the Medal train, getting Bronze lifting 119kg. Ibrahim who made her international debut for Nigeria in 2017, this time marked her Paralympics debut with a medal.

In the men’s category, Yakubu Adesokan missed out on the podium by just 1kg, finishing 4th with his best lift of 155kg and although he attempted 161kg on his last attempt to try and snatch Bronze from Azerbaijan’s Parvin Mammadov whose best lift was 156kg, he fell short on his third attempt.

Ibrahim Dauda had three clean lifts to finish 5th with 170kg in the men’s -59kg, while in the men’s -72kg, Nnamdi Innocent failed all three attempts at 200kg, which if he was successful would have seen him usurp the Silver medal from Egypt’s Mahmoud Attia who finished 2nd with 191kg.

Although Nigeria has put up a decent showing in the Powerlifting event so far, there’s a mixed feeling that they are already short of their 2016 outing in Rio where they won Nine medals: 6 GOLDs and three Silver medals. Having won three already in Tokyo, if Nigeria wins medals in all the four Powerlifting events, they will finish with a total of seven medals.

It might look as though other countries are catching up with Nigeria in Powerlifting, but a look at the medal table, shows Nigeria is still force to reckon, currently in second behind China in this event. Nigeria could have won more medals in Powerlifting had events gone their way in the weight categories of Ejike and Innocent respectively. They will still put up a fight in the remaining four categories.

Athletics coverage was a discovery, having to move away from regularly writing about Football. Although it was initially daunting, but now being an authority in it makes the past effort worthwhile. From travelling on the same international flight with Nigerian athletes, to knowing you could easily interview: World Record holder Tobi Amusan, then Ese Brume, I have cut my teeth in this beat earning the trust of Athletics sources. Formerly the Content Manager-Sports at Ringier media Nigeria, Chris is a Senior Sports writer, Photographer & Community manager at Making of Champions.


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