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NIGERIA’S STARS OF 2015 ALL AFRICA GAMES

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Nigeria may not have won the just-concluded 2015 All Africa Games in Congo, but some of the country’s athletes posted some eye-catching performances at the continent’s top sports showpiece, writes ’TANA AIYEJINA

The Congo 2015 All Africa Games ended on Saturday with Nigeria again unable to win the continent’s top sports competition.

But quite remarkably, the country still made a mark in athletics in Brazzaville, despite the athletics team’s unforgettable appearance at the Beijing 2015 World Championships, just on the eve of the African games.

With Blessing Okagbare suddenly showing up and helping Nigeria to a women’s 4x100m relay gold, an amazing 20 medals — 10 gold, seven silver and three bronze— by the athletics team, rare gold medals in cycling and beach volleyball, eight weightlifting gold medals, fascinating outings by the boxers and some eye-popping performances by Nigeria’s para-athletes, it was always going to be a tournament to remember.

In a twist of fate, the football event, despite the early flashes of promise from the country’s men and women’s team, ended in near-misery for both teams. Samson Siasia’s U-23 team only managed a bronze medal finish after losing 3-1 to Burkina Faso in the semi-final. They defeated hosts Congo 5-3 in the third-place game after a goalless draw.

The Super Falcons were also beaten 3-1 in the semi-finals by Cameroon and the African champions again lost the third-place to Ivory Coast, who had beaten them in the group stage. It was the Falcons’ third defeat in five games at the event.

But there were several other moments to cherish at the event as far as Team Nigeria were concerned.

Onuah sets pace

For Elizabeth Onuah, it was an unforgettable debut at the continent’s top sports competition. The Edo-born athlete began the inflow of gold medals into Team Nigeria’s camp, when she won the country’s first two gold medals at the games on September 8.

The lifter won two gold in clean and jack and snatch before settling for another bronze in the 48kg category to cap an amazing debut at the AAG.

Five powerlifters break world records

Once again, Nigeria’s para-athletes showed their class at international sporting competitions, with a bagful of medals in Congo. The duo of powerlifters Yakubu Adesokan and Esther Oyema initially stood out in the pack, setting world records at the African event.

Adesokan, competing in the men’s 49kg category, lifted a massive 182.5kg to win gold and also set a new world record in the process.

The 36-year-old had previously set the world record at the 2012 Paralympic Games with a lift of 177kg. The record was erased by a Vietnamese, who lifted 181kg. But Adesokan has the bragging rights once more with his latest heroics.

Another Nigerian, Esther Oyema, set a new world record in Brazzaville. Competing in the women’s 55kg category, Oyema lifted 133kg to erase the previous 126kg record, also set by her.

However on Friday, three new world records were set by another set of impressive female powerlifters Bose Omolayo, Loveline Obiji and Precious Orji.

Omolayo lifted 137.5kg in the women’s 79kg while Obiji lifted 149kg in the women’s 86kg category, before Orji, competing in the women’s 86kg, lifted 164kg to complete a hat trick of records and gold medals for Team Nigeria in Congo.

Uke enters record books

US-based Uke won a gold and silver at her debut appearance at the African games in Congo. Uke struck gold in the women’s discus event to enter the record books as the first Nigerian woman ever to achieve the feat, with her third round throw of 54.25m enough to secure the historic victory.

The 23-year-old was also tipped to win the shot put event in the absence of favourite Chinwe Okoro but her 16.64m throw only earned her a silver medal.

Her personal season’s best of 17.95m in the shot put (indoors), the best by an African this season, was achieved at the 2015 C-USA Indoor Championships, where she broke Regina Cavanaugh’s ’87 29-year-old record. It was her third-consecutive C-USA Indoor title.

Although Uke is hoping to compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, she’s actually not interested in a long-term professional career. Rather, her sights are set on medicine.

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