For the seventh consecutive year, YNaija brings you its annual ranking of the most powerful young persons under the age of 40 who are getting things done in the sporting world. From elite athletes to top-flight footballers and sports administrators, these 10 fellows are doing the country proud.
Simidele Adeagbo is Africa’s first female skeleton athlete, as well as the first black female athlete in the sport of skeleton. Adeagbo competed at her first Olympics at the 2018 Winter Olympics in skeleton, as part of the Nigerian team, becoming the first Nigerian to compete at the Winter Olympics. She was the Nigerian flagbearer at the 2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremony. Adeagbo has served as a Nike body double for Serena Williams and works as a marketing manager for Nike in South Africa.
At the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, wrestler Odunayo Adekuoroye won a gold medal in the freestyle (57kg) class after defeating India’s Pooja Dhanda. It isn’t the first time Adekuoroye would win Gold as she also emerged Commonwealth champion in Glasgow 2014. One of the brightest stars in wrestling, Adekuoroye is no stranger to winning laurels. She has a silver medal from the 2016 World Wrestling Championships held in Paris and a Bronze medal from the 2015 event.
Before 2018, the D’Tigress, Nigeria’s women’s basketball team had never won a FIBA World Cup match. At the tourney in Spain this year, D’Tigress defeated Turkey, Greece and Argentina on their way to a berth in the quarterfinals. Besiktas forward Evelyn Akhator was the standout performer for Team Nigeria. Playing only in her first major global competition, the University of Kentucky product was named one of the outstanding players of the tournament, scoring more double-doubles in points and rebounds than any other player at the event.
With proper Nigerian names like Olaseni and Oluwafemi, Anthony Joshua really is as Nigerian as they come. Joshua retained his world heavyweight titles in September by seeing off Russian Alexander Povetkin with a ruthless seventh-round finish at Wembley Stadium. This win brings Joshua’s unbeaten professional record to 22 wins from 22 fights, with 21 knockouts. He currently holds three of the four major boxing world championships.
Ahmed Musa became Nigeria’s favourite son when he banged in two scintillating goals against Iceland to briefly keep alive Nigeria’s World Cup hopes. Even though the team did not go beyond the first round, Musa was for many, a Nigerian hero. Following a fan vote, Musa was awarded the most memorable performance award at the Volgograd venue of the 2018 World Cup. After the World Cup, Musa moved to Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia from Leicester City in England to continue his professional career and has been turning in excellent performances.
Wilfred Ndidi joined former English champions Leicester City in a £17 million transfer deal from Genk, Belgium, more than 18 months ago and he is regarded as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. And he’s still just 21. Ndidi’s fifteen tackles were the most of any player in the Russia 2018 World Cup group stage, and he finished still joint-second in the overall list, despite Nigeria being knocked out after only three games.
Asisat Oshoala can’t stop scoring. Or winning. The Nigerian international recently capped another title-winning season in China with her tenth league goal of the season in the Chinese Women Super League. She scored the matchwinner as her Dalian Quanjian defeated Changchun Dazhong 1-0. In January, Oshoala won her third African Women’s Player of the Year trophy putting an end to her unfulfilling run in the English Premier League where she played for both Arsenal and Liverpool Ladies.
Thursdaline took self-defence to another level when she started teaching Taekwondo to women as a way of fighting domestic violence and abuse. Founder of The Body Dynamics, Peter is Nigeria’s youngest Taekwondo referee. Peter won the best international referee award at the 2017 Taekwondo World Championships, and the best Gyorugi referee award at the 2017 Chuncheon Korea Open International Championships.
Aruna Quadri recently defeated veteran and three-time champion Ahmed Ali Saleh from Egypt to clinch the men’s singles event at the 2018 International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) African Championships in Mauritius. This victory came one month after Quadri won the 2018 ITTF Challenge Seamaster Nigeria Open in Lagos. Quadri is now ranked number 18 in the world, the highest ranked African player. At the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics, he competed for Nigeria in the men’s singles table tennis event, advancing to the quarter-finals stage on both occasions.
At 23, Seni Saraki, son of Senate president, Bukola Saraki, is one of the youngest football managers in the world. Saraki is chairman of the Kwara state based national league side, Abubakar Bukola Saraki Football Club. Saraki has moved to revamp the club, announcing a new management structure, signing up new players and unveiling a new logo. The club inked a five-year partnership deal with global sports lifestyle brand, PUMA, reported as the largest in local league history.