Lagos – Delta women team had a pleasant run to top the just-concluded 4th Victor Ochei International Wheelchair Basketball Championships in Lagos.
They showed class in the competition which featured an all female team for the first time, being resilient to oppositions by not losing any of their five matches.
In the men’s category, Lagos State, which won the maiden edition in 2011, also excelled having out-played seven others in the competition.
They also did not lose any of their matches.
The Delta women made all encountered opposition looked ordinary by exerting dominance, recording wide scoring margins to claim their first ever championships trophy.
Led by their team captain, Remi Obasanya, who eventually emerged as the women’s most valuable player of the competition, the Delta team was undoubtedly in a class of their own.
The final match between Delta and Imo showed a picture of Delta’s dominance in the tournament as they pounded Imo, 14-05 in a colourful final that witnessed large turnout of fans.
Meanwhile in the men’s finals, a determined Lagos men’s team lived up to the expectations as they paraded foreign-based professionals with depth of experience on their path.
The team swooped on oppositions and with their sights on the championship trophy and had only the defending champions, Oyo as their major challenger.
The team prevailed but had to fight hard to beat Oyo, 39-34 in a keenly contested final that saw the best of a wheelchair basketball contest.
David Segun’s creativity for the Lagos team did not go unnoticed as he won the Most Valuable Player’s award in the men’s category.
However, eight teams took part in the championship which also climaxed the end of an enduring season of a sport craving for more competitions.
The tournament was organised to enable the Nigeria Wheelchair Basketball Federation (NWBF) choose players that would represent the country at the African/Olympic qualifiers which will come up in Algeria in November.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Delta team and the Lagos team emerged overall champions in the women’s and men’s category respectively.
Among notable personalities that watched the finals was Tayo Oreweme, the Liaison Officer National Stadium, Lagos, who expressed happiness over how the teams exhibited their skills at the finals.
“I was moved with emotion about how the players were able to contest for the ball as they displayed high skills while on wheelchairs.
“It is wonderful to see that the game can be played with such a high tempo where one could feel the tension as a spectator.
“I commend the participants who showed great discipline and good sportsmanship in proving that the sport is very much alive in the country.
“I also congratulate the sponsor, Mr Victor Ochei for his continued support for the sport, with more people like him the sport will have the capacity to grow nationwide,’’ she said.
In the same vein, Ochei expressed joy about the championships and urged more corporate bodies to fund the sport.
He also pledged to work out modalities with the NWBF where they could hold four regular championships annually.
“This is a sport I love very well, and I am happy we are growing yearly because it was not like this in the beginning.
“Hopefully, the championships should take another shape in the next edition, but what we must try to achieve is making it to the Olympics.
“I am committed to seeing this dream come true as for what I have seen so far, we can go all the way to win the African championships in Algeria.
“The target is to capture an automatic ticket by winning the championships trophy and flying the nation’s flag in the coming summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“Once we achieve this feet, it will increase the fans support for the sport and help in developing it nationwide,’’ Ochei said.
Delta’s coach, Benson Aikoroje, also told NAN that the competition had afforded the physically challenged the opportunity to make proper use of their time and develop hidden potential.
He called for more support for the sport, saying that the nation had the capacity to dominate the world in wheelchair basketball and other special sports.
“I am happy winning the championships, my players are hardworking people. The entire wheelchair basketball players are like a family that train together all year round.
“It will be great if other sponsors can sponsor championships in wheelchair basketball,’’ Aiokoroje said.
Tope Ogunyemi of the Lagos winning team said that the event had brought out the best out of the finalists.
“We gave our best and it worked out fine, indeed it was a well contested competition and I am happy to be on the winning side.
“We hope for more championships of this nature so as to develop the sport at the grassroots in other states,’’ Ogunyemi said.
NAN reports that other teams that featured in the edition are, Ogun, Edo, Osun and Rivers.