Nigerian officials have said they aim to finish as the top African team at the 19th Commonwealth Games, which begin in New Delhi on October 3.
“Our main target is to ensure that we finish as the best African team at the Games,” said the country’s top official, Patrick Ekeji.
At the last edition in Melbourne, Australia, South Africa finished as Africa’s best team with 12 golds, 13 silvers and 13 bronze medals, while Kenya finished five places below with six golds, five silvers and seven bronze medals.
Nigeria placed 12th with four golds, six silvers and 7 bronze medals with special sports athletes contributing three of these golds, while Monday Merohun and Segun Toriola got the country’s other gold in the table tennis men’s double event.
Nigeria will compete in track and field, boxing, weightlifting, wrestling, special sports and table tennis.
The country’s hopes will again be in special sports, athletics and table tennis with the multi-talented Blessing Okagbare, the star at the recent African Athletics Championship in Kenya, Nigeria’s biggest medal prospect.
Okagbare will feature in the 100 and 200 metres sprints, the long jump as well as anchor the 4x100m relay team.
Ajoke Odumosu, who set a new national record of 54.68 secs in the 400m hurdles in Split, Croatia, last month, is also expected to medal, while British-based triple jumper Tosin Oke, gold medallist at the African Championships, is favoured to reach the podium in Delhi.
Sprints star Olusoji Fasuba, who won silver in the men’s 100m four years ago in Australia, is not part of Nigeria’s contingent to the games after falling out with the authorities.
Nigeria will not present any male relay teams at the games. This is a huge setback for a nation that won 4x400m gold at the Sydney Olympics and 4x100m bronze at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
“We are presenting athletes who we are sure will give us medals. The era of taking a crowd to international competitions and creating a lot of scene is over. We want total concentration and not confusion in the camp,” insisted the president of the Athletics Federation of Nigeria (AFN), Solomon Ogba.
Morale in the team has sagged, however, as athletes complained of poor preparation and a drastic cutback on their daily camping allowances.