The 2016 Rio Paralympic Games was an occasion to make every Nigerian proud. 23 Paralympians represented our country, delivering our best performance since Nigeria started competing in 1992. They were also Africa’s best-performing team.
It’s not easy to write a profile that accurately captures the spirits of 23 different people. They competed in 3 sports: powerlifting, shotput and discus throw, 11 were eventual medalists: 8 women and 3 men, and between them they won 12 medals: 8 Gold, 2 Bronze and 2 Silver. No doubt all exceptional athletes with outstanding abilities, each would probably attribute his or her accomplishments to raw determination and sheer grit. It’s not easy to emerge a winner among champions.
There is so much about this team and their 2016 Paralympics performance that is inspirational. Who could forget, for instance, the heartwarming celebration and sheer joy on Lauritta Onye’s face after she threw a shotput 8.40 metres, not only winning gold, but smashing the world record? You probably didn’t know that the team’s Rio flag-bearer, Lucy Ejike, a 39-year old weightlifter, has broken three world records since Beijing, including her latest gold medal performance in Rio. She’s been competing since 2000, when she was just 23.
In the traditional fanfare that accompanies the Olympic Games, and which tends to overshadow the Paralympic Games, it’s far too easy to overlook the consistently strong performance the Nigerian Paralympic team has delivered over the last five Games. Many of the same athletes represented us in Athens, Beijing and London, and a 13 medal haul is not unusual for the team. This year though, they brought home more gold medals than they ever have.
Kudos therefore to Nigeria’s record-breaking Paralympic Team, and in particular to our medalists: Lucy Ejike, Roland Ezuruike, Nnamdi Innocent, Eucharia Iyiazi, Paul Kehinde, Ndidi Nwosu, Bose Omolayo, Lauritta Onye, Josephine Orji, Esther Onyema and Latifat Tijani.