It is four days before the opening of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Nigeria has been attending the Olympic Games since 1952 but Africa’s most populous nation has only 25 medals to show for these journeys.

These comprise three gold medals; 10 silver medals and 12 bronze medals. This piece will take us through the 16 medal expeditions, for which the country has sent 722 male and female athletes.

The beginning

Nigeria won her first medal in Tokyo in 1964 through Nojeem Maiyegun. He claimed bronze in the men’s light middleweight class. Nigeria then waited another eight years to get on the podium again at the Munich Games in 1972 when another boxer, Isaac Ikhouria won another bronze in the light heavyweight category.

It would take another 12 years before the third medal-a historic silver medal after two bronze medals, from boxing by Peter Konyegwachie, who took part in the men’s featherweight category.

The country also won the first-ever medal in athletics. The quartet of Sunday Uti, Moses Ugbusien, Rotimi Peters, and Innocent Egbunike won the bronze in the men’s 4×400m relay.

Thus, it took Nigeria 20 years between 1964 and 1984; missing out the 1976 Montreal edition, which was boycotted, to win four medals-three from boxing and one from athletics.

Seoul 1988 was a disaster as Team Nigeria, made up of the largest-ever contingent to an Olympic Games, fell on all fours. It was the first edition for which the football team qualified but they came last in Group D, which also had Brazil, Australia, and Yugoslavia. The team, led by German coach, Manfred Hoener conceded eight goals and scored one through the late Rashidi Yekini. It was the time that all teams comprised amateur footballers.

The 1992 Games in Barcelona could not come early enough and Team Nigeria made some amends-winning three silver medals and a bronze. These also came from boxing and athletics.

David Izonritei and Richard Igbineghu won silver medals in the men’s heavyweight and men’s super-heavyweight categories while men and women’s relay teams won medals in the 4×100m relay races.

The men’s quartet of Olapade Adeniken, Davidson Ezinwa, Chidi Imoh, and Oluyemi Kayode won silver while the women’s quartet of Beatrice Utondu, Christy Opara-Thompson, Mary Onyali, and Faith Idehen won bronze.

Golden season

The golden Nigerian moment came at the 1996 Games held in Atalanta, USA. Team Nigeria won an unprecedented two gold medals, one silver, and three bronze medals.

Chioma Ajunwa won the country’s first-ever gold medal in the women’s Long Jump event on July 29, 1996, with her very first jump.

Nigeria’s U-23 team’s dramatic triumph over Argentina followed this on August 3. That team had many famous names, none more so than Kanu Nwankwo, who captained the side and scored the historic golden goal that beat Brazil in the semi-final. The team also had the likes of Austin Okocha, Sunday Oliseh, Taribo West, Uche Okechukwu, and Daniel Amokachi.

The women’s 4x400m relay team won a silver; while there were more personal triumphs in Athletics. Falilat Ogunkoya came third in the women’s 400m; Mary Onyali also came third in the women’s 200m while Duncan Dokiwari won Nigeria’s almost customary medal in boxing in the men’s super-heavyweight class.

It was a mixed bag for Team Nigeria at the 2000 Sydney Games. The USA team – Alvin Harrison, Antonio Pettigrew, Calvin Harrison, and Michael Johnson won the 4x400m relay race ahead of the Nigerian team that comprised Clement Chukwu, Jude Monye, the late Sunday Bada, and Enefiok Udo-Obong but after Antonio Pettigrew admitted to the use of banned substances in 2008, the IOC on July 12, 2012, reallocated the gold medal to Nigeria.

Gloria Alozie won a silver in the 100m hurdles while Ruth Ogbeifo won Nigeria’s first-ever medal in weightlifting.

Barren spell coming

The centenary games in 2004 in Greece was an all-men affair as the quartets in the 100m and 400m relay teams achieved bronze finishes. Olusoji Fasuba, Uchenna Emedolu, Aaron Egbele, and Deji Aliu made up the 100m relay team while Enefiok Udo-Obong, for the second consecutive Games, picked up a medal with James Godday, Musa Audu, and Saul Weigopwa.

In 2008 in Beijing, another male football team, led by the late Promise Isaac, and coached by Samson Siasia, won the silver medal as they lost to Argentina in the final from a goal by Angel di Maria. The Argentine team also paraded a certain Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez.

Blessing Okagbare won an individual medal in athletics in the Long Jump while the relay quartet of Franca Idoko, Gloria Kemasuode, Halimat Ismaila, and Oludamola Osayomi won the silver in the 4x100m relay in a season’s best time of 43.04s.

Chika Chukwumerije won Nigeria’s first-ever medal in the men’s Taekwondo 80kg+ category while Mariam Usman followed up Ogbeifo’s 2000 silver medal in weightlifting with a bronze in the 75kg category.

After these came another barren spell.

The last two games-2012 in London and the 2016 Games in Rio have been near barren, with just one medal won. That was the bronze won by the U-23 football team, led by Mikel Obi, also coached by Siasia to the Rio Games.

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