Flora Ugwunwa has won two consecutive F54 Javelin Paralympic Titles. Photo Credit: IPC

Flora Ugwunwa successfully defended her Paralympic crown, drawing the curtains on Team Nigeria’s participation at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, winning GOLD in the women’s F54 Javelin event on Saturday.

The defending Paralympic champion threw a Season’s Best of 19.39m on her fifth attempt, and was the only athlete to go over the 19m mark on the day, winning the event to make it two consecutive titles since debuting at the Games in 2016.

Being the last of the field to compete had its measure of pressure, but maybe it afforded her front-row opportunity to see what her other opponents could come up with, and to guage what to improve on.

Also she was the last Nigerian athlete competing in Tokyo, and being a favourite, she knew the weight of expectations on her shoulders, wrapping it up in style winning Nigeria’s 10th Paralympic medal in Tokyo.

Uzbekistan’s Nurkhon Kurbanova led with 18.38m and had completed her throws, before Ugwunwa took to the field. Ugwunwa on her first attempt, matched Kurbanova’s best mark, and then went into the lead on her second attempt throwing 19.08m.

In the women’s F40 Shot Put, Lauritta Onye was the second the Nigerian athlete to get on the podium on Saturday, finishing 3rd to settle for Bronze with a Season’s Best throw of 8.29m.

Having to wipe the wet surface, due to the torrential downpour just before the commencement of the penultimate day at Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, Onye in some of her throws had to improvise, cleaning the surface with her towel, and even removing her shoes at some point.

She relinquished her Paralympic title and the former record which stood at 8.40m, but Polish athlete and World Record holder, Renata Sliwinska was in a league of her own, throwing a new PR of 8.75m to win GOLD. Tunisia’s Nourhein Belhaj threw a new Personal Best of 8.33m to get the Silver medal as Onye got Bronze with 8.29m.

With two medals won in Athletics, Nigeria’s overall tally came to 10 medals spread across three Sporting events. Powerlifting accounted for the most, six: 3 GOLDs, 1 silver and 2 Bronze medals. Then 3 in Athletics: 1 GOLD, two Bronze medals and Table Tennis also in the medal mix with Bronze in the men’s Team event.

Nigeria might not have improved on the lofty heights of 2016, which has been the country’s best outing so far: 12 overall – 8 GOLD, 2 Silver & 2 Bronze medals, but 10 this time around isn’t a bad return.

One huge takeaway from Tokyo Paralympics, is that other countries are now catching up on Nigeria in its forte (Powerlifting) and even making in-roads into other sports. As at Saturday, Azerbaijan with a population of 15million people has won 14 GOLD medals. The work and route for medals at Paris 2024 starts now.

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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