As the curtain falls on London Olympics today, Team Nigeria is ending the country’s participation with not even a bronze medal to show for the N2.2bn committed to taking part in the games. The United States of America leads the medals’ table with 43 gold, 29 silver and 29 bronze while China is second with 38 gold, 27 silver and 22 bronze. Host country, Great Britain that won less medals than Nigeria at the Atlanta 1996 Games is in a decent third position with 28 gold, 15 silver and 19 bronze.
Nigeria’s 4x400m women relay team capped the dismal outing at the games last night with a disqualification that was meaningless as the seventh position they finished was clearly outside the podium.
Sinivie Boltic is the last Nigerian standing to fight for a medal in the 96kg of the wrestling event after all the other athletes brought here have all failed to get to the podium. Even Boltic’s hope for a medal remains uncertain as he has a herculean task ahead against Nicolai Ceban of Moldova in the free-style wrestling event.
Meanwhile, Chika Chukwumerije’s three-year preparation for the London Olympics went up in smoke in just a question of seconds, losing the +80kg taekwondo to world number-four-rated Cuban Robelis Despagne 1-0.
The Team Nigeria’s captain had successfully held his ground in the first two rounds with no point from either of the fighters but with just seconds left of the third round, an innoucous kick from the Cuban effectively ended Chukwumerije’s ambition.
The entire Nigerian contingent that had placed all hopes of winning a medal on the Beijing 2008 bronze medallist went cold.
Even Chika’s father, Uche Chukwumerije who is a serving Abia senator in the upper chamber of the National Assembly, was close to tears at the Excel Centre of the taekwondo event.
” If after three years of hard work of training this is all I can get, to God be the glory,” said a dispirited Chukwumerije as he lamented what has just happened to his London Olympic adventure.
Without doubt, the junior Chukwumerije was gallant in defeat. The point that cost him progress to the next stage of winning a medal could have gone either way. Even the Cuban camp admitted the Team Nigerian fighter was no easy prey for their boy.
“The guy (Despagne) was not better than me technically.First fights are usually like this for me in a competition but it was just unfortunate that he got the point with just seconds to go,” observed the mechanical engineering graduate.
All hopes of still salvaging something from the event failed as the Cuban failed to go beyond the next round. He lost 9-2 to Anthony Obame of Gabon.
The calculation was that if Despagne had won, Chukwumerije would still have had the opportunity of fighting for the bronze medal.
Meanwhile, Mali’s wildcard taekwondo fighter, Daba Modibo Keith, remained in contention for the country’s first Olympic Games medal after reaching the quarter-finals.
The 31-year-old, twice a world champion and who trains in the USA, relies on funding from the IOC Olympics Solidarity Scholarship.
He did not disappoint in his opening bout against Akmal Irgashev of Uzbekistan.
After trailing 1-0 from the first round, Keita – who has struggled with a knee injury since reaching the quarter-finals of the Beijing 2008 Olympics – hit back to lead 4-1 and then landed head kicks in the third to complete a 13-4 win over the seventh seed, who had won silver at last year’s World Championships.
Keita, though, faces a stern test in the last eight against Canada’s number two seed Francois Coulombe-Fortier.
“I feel well, but that was just the first fight and the first match of the morning is always difficult. Now I know what to do from the next rounds on and hopefully I’ll get through to the end of the tournament,” he said.
“I got injured in my knee and I’m trying to get back to the top level.”