After recording some ground-breaking achievements last year, President of the Nigeria Wrestling Federation (NWF) Daniel Igali is hopeful that 2020 will be even ‘better’ for the sport in the country.
In addition to dominating the continent at the African Championships in Tunisia and the 12th African Games in Morocco in 2019, Team Nigeria grabbed three global laurels.
Back-to-back Commonwealth champion Odunayo Adekuoroye (57kg) won bronze, her third medal at the World Championships in Kazakhstan, while Blessing Onyebuchi (70+) and Mercy Genesis (50kg), both claimed gold and silver medals respectively at the inaugural ANOCA World Beach Games in Doha, Qatar, to establish Nigeria as a force to reckon with in world wrestling.
Looking ahead to what promises to be a very busy year in wrestling, the Bayelsa State Sports Commissioner highlighted some of the competitions that the country’s wrestlers will tentatively be taking part in.“2019 was definitely a good year for Nigeria, but our desire and hope is that 2020 becomes even a better year for us,” the World and Olympic champion said.
“We are starting off with the Italian Ranking Series Tournament in just about a week. Baring visa difficulties, we hope to make it there with about five athletes and a coach. And it will help with our ranking for the Olympics.
“We have the African Championships coming up in February (in Algeria), and we are hoping that, at the minimum, we are going to retain our title as African Champions in female wrestling.”
With only Adekuoroye securing her place at the Olympics this year by virtue of winning bronze at the 2019 World Championships, Hon. Igali also disclosed that the NWF intends to qualify no fewer than six athletes for the Tokyo 2020 Games, adding that plans will be made to give them quality preparations as well.
“Our desire and goal this year is to qualify between six and eight athletes to the Olympics, and that will take place in March,” he said.“We are hoping that we would have the financial resources to get our athletes prepared enough to get probably our largest team going to the Olympics in March in El Jadida, Morocco (venue of the Africa/Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament).
“We also have a couple of Olympic preparatory tournaments. We have another Ranking Series tournament in June.“Our plan is to have every athlete who qualified for the Olympics to get a minimum of 20 matches before the Olympics proper.” At the Rio Games in Brazil four years ago, seven wrestlers (five women and two men) represented Nigeria.Nigeria is yet to win an Olympic medal in wrestling.However, the NWF boss Igali won a historic gold medal at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia while fighting for Canada.