Who is Better Now? || By Emmanuel Iddio

A few weeks ago the Nigerian Olympic contingent returned from its most disappointing outing at the Olympics. It has never been this worse. Since I was born, we had always returned with at least a bronze. On the other hand, the Paralympic team continued to shine. They have hauled in over 22 gold medals since their debut in 1992. It leaves only one question on our lips: “Who is better now?”

The Nigerian Olympic team has never had it this bad in 20 years. First, the nation’s soccer teams failed to qualify for the competition. Added to this injury was the performance of the basketball team at the games. While their opponent was struggling to set the record as the highest scorers, D’Tigers worked hard towards receiving the heaviest defeat. At the end we all knew what happened we broke the all-time Olympic record by losing 156-73. After Blessing Okagbare’s poor performance, her mum attributed her poor outing to the handwork of witches and wizards. What is wrong with our country?

On the other hand the Paralympics team continued to blossom. On day one, first timer, Yakubu Adesokan not only won gold but also set a new world record for lifting 180kg; about 4 times his body weight. The country also tops the women power lifting rankings leading China and Egypt. The team had also won over 22 gold medals since making its debut in 1992. Where are those witches, or do they not follow the handicaps too?

If we compare our Olympic and Paralympic teams we would only sigh at our disability in ability. The Olympic team has competed in 14 games with a total of 23 medals while the Paralympic team has won over 22 gold medals in just five games. The Olympic team won its first gold in 1996, 44 years after its debut, while the Paralympic team won 3 gold medals in 1992 at its first competition. At the recent games in London, the Olympic team comprised of 51 athletes all of whom returned empty-handed; while the Paralympic team comprised of 29 athletes and have won over 5 gold medals. Who is better now?

It is really a sad situation for sports in our dear country. After spending 2.2 billion naira on 51 athletes without winning a single medal, the sports ministry still point out poor funding as one of the reasons for the team’s poor show. The team’s fire brigade approach which saw them commencing intense preparations 2 months to the games also contributed to its dismal outing. But I think it’s time these able bodied athletes take these Paralympic athletes as role models. It took only 29 disables to do what 51 able bodied men and women could not achieve. There is definitely ability in disability.

I would never stop asking: “Who is better now?” We should look towards the total revival of sports in Nigeria. The idea of government backing out of sports management is a good one, because the corruption of government officials only rubs off on the performance of our sports team. Imagine a 13 year old competed for Togo and a 15 year old won gold for China; this is a challenge to us. We claim to be the heart of Africa but it is not beating at all. When would we be the pride of Africa again? Kudos to the Paralympic team who against all odds made Nigerians proud.

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