By Solomon Nwoke
Nigeria began on a good note yesterday at the ongoing Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland as the country won her first medal in weightlifting.
Youthful Nkechi Opara gave Nigeria her first medal when she won a bronze medal in the Women 48kg weight class. She lifted a total weight of 162kg behind the duo of India’s Sanjita Khumukcham and Mirabai Chanu Saikhom who won the gold and silver respectively at the Clyde Auditorium.
Opara making her debute in the sport competed alongside, Khumukcham who began her weightlifting career in 2006 in Manipur, India and won her major cap at the 2011 Asian Championships in Tongling, China hauled a total lift of 173kg while Saikhom who emerged Best Lifter at the 2013 Junior National Championship in Guwahati, India lifted a total weight of 170kg to settle for the silver medal.
Nigeria topped the weightlifting medal charts in 2010 edition with five gold, four silver and five bronze followed by Samoa (3, 0, 0) and India (2, 2, 4). This time also, India, with six lifters from 2010 Games, are likely to maintain that level of performance.
Nigeria’s preparation was not too good as lack of funds did not allow them go for foreign training and exposure. They have, however, named a strong squad, including 2010 63kg gold winner Obioma Agatha Okoli.
India had done exceedingly well in the 2013 Commonwealth Championships in Johannesburg last November. Many Indian lifters are among top three of the latest Commonwealth rankings.
2010 CWG gold medallist in men’s 69kg, K Ravi Kumar is again in the team but he is competing in 77kg this time, and is not expected to win gold in his new weight category having laid low for a long time due to injury.
Khumukcham Sanjita and Saikhom Mirabai Chanu are competing tomorrow in women’s 48kg and India has the chance to win two medals from this category.
This has been a strong category for India since the days of Kunjarani Devi. India had won a silver and bronze in this category in 2010.
The Indian duo will have a strong competitor in Chika Amalaha of Nigeria, who had won silver in 53kg in Commonwealth Championships, but is competing in 48kg class.