By Ben Efe
Nigerian paralympians recorded an unprecedented outing at the London London 2012 Games. The country’s athletes were the toast of the ever cheering spectators at the London ExCel Centre where Nigeria dominated the power-lifting event.
And Nigerian officials celebrated the feat like there was no tomorrow. It was quite a spectacle at the Nigerian Ambassador’s residence in London as food and drinks freely flowed. National Sports Commission director-general Patrick Ekeji danced to the music of Iyayan like a man who had just reunited with his long lost lover, while his subordinates, Simon Ebojiaye, Olu Akoja and Al Hassan Yakmut prowled all over the premises like over pampered pet dogs.
Why not? Only in August Nigerian sports officials had buried their heads in the sands after Nigerian able-bodied athletes failed to win a single pin at the London 2012 Olympics and here was the Paralympians raking in a total of 13 medals.
But on unknowing to the the Nigerian officials other countries have taken note of Nigeria’s dominance of the power-lifting event and they left London with thoughts of how to stop the all conquering Nigerians at the next Games in Rio 2016.
As the athletes returned home on Tuesday it dawned on them that it was everyman and woman to your tents until three months to the next Paralympics Games. These athletes had voiced their concern over the poor state of their sport, they want the government to pay adequate attention to disabled sports so that more athletes will be able to participate in the Paralympics and more medals won for the country.
At London 2012 emphasis was placed only on power-lifting whereas there are other disciplines, like athletics, which had produced four different gold medals in the past.
There was also table tennis where Nigerian athletes distinguished themselves in previous games.
“We have so many talented disabled people out there in the street. Only if the government can put more money in the sport, a whole lot of them will be taken from the streets,” said wheelchair tennis coach Frank Termena.
His athletes were almost missing out the London games, after they were ostracized by the NSC because they have no potentials to win medals. It was the Nigeria Olympics Committee president Sanni Ndanusa that paid wheelchair tennis players’ way to London.
“There is a whole lot of work to be done if we are to surpass what we achieved in London 2012. We have other sports that we could do well, but the the NSC director-general was ill advised to ignore certain sports and concentrated on power-lifting. Nigerian could have won more medals if we paid attention to other athletes with potentials,” the coach added.
Dr. Ekeji himself admitted that if Nigeria hope to beat what they achieved in London 2012 more has to be done in terms of preparing the athletes for the Rio Games in 2016.